Monthly Archives: June 2015

Books: Research on Libyan Nawba Music

Two studies on a type of traditional Libyan music called nawba (النوبة) appeared in 2012. The first is by a Maltese academic who conducted fieldwork in Libya and interviewed many well-known musicians (such as Hassan al-Areibi حسن العريبي).

  • Ciantar, Philip. 2012. The Ma’lūf in Contemporary Libya: An Arab Andalusian Musical Tradition. London: Ashgate.

More information can be found at the publisher’s site, including the table of contents and Preface. From the publisher’s description:

“The musical tradition of Ma’luf is believed to have come to North Africa with Muslim and Jewish refugees escaping the Christian reconquista of Spain between the tenth and seventeenth centuries. Although this Arab Andalusian music tradition has been studied in other parts of the region, until now, the Libyan version has not received Western scholarly attention.

This book investigates the place of this orally-transmitted music tradition in contemporary Libyan life and culture. It investigates the people that make it and the institutions that nurture it as much as the tradition itself. Patronage, music making, discourse both about life and music, history, and ideology all unite in a music tradition which looks innocent from the outside but appears quite intriguing and intricate the more one explores it.”

nawba-selectionThe second is a PhD thesis by a Libyan student at the Free University, Berlin. Both a summary in English as well as the entire PDF (in German) are available. The thesis provides a wealth of detail and analysis of individual nawba melodies and lyrics (including sheet music), but remains unpublished as far as I can tell.

  • El-Ageli, Muftah Ali. 2012. Die Andalusische Nauba in Libyen: Struktur und Aufführungspraxis. Ph.D. Thesis, Freie Universität Berlin.

The title translates to “The Andalusian Nawba in Libya: structure and performance practice” / “النوبة الاندلسية في ليبيا: هيكلها و ممارسة اداءها”.

Journal Issue: The Multiple Narratives of the Libyan Revolution

At the end of last year appeared a special issue of the journal Middle East Critique dedicated to Libya and entitled “The Multiple Narratives of the Libyan Revolution” (vol 23 issue 4 2014). It was guest-edited by Matteo Capasso and Igor Cherstich, who write in their guest editors’ Note:

“…since Qadhdhafi’s oil nationalization and the gradual rapprochement of Libya with the Soviet bloc through the purchase of weapons, western media and scholarship have used ‘Qadhdhafi’ and ‘Libya’ as synonyms, reiterating an Orientalist understanding of the Middle East. Scholars, analysts, and journalists depicted the ‘Libyan head for the Libyan whole,’ to quote anthropologist John Davis, assuming that there was no ‘Libya-ness’ beyond the macro-historical meta- narrative of ‘Qadhdhafi-ness.’ The cumbersome and ubiquitous personality of Qadhdhafi obscured Libya’s complexity, and one Libyan became the symbol for all Libyans.

This habit—‘the part for the whole’—has continued even after Mu’ammar Qadhdhafi’s fall. On the one hand, the revolution of 2011 has forced analysts to realize that beyond the Libyan regime there was a Libyan society: A complex universe comprised of tribes, cities, and agents that did not necessarily identify with Qadhdhafi’s project. On the other hand, the discovery of a ‘Libyan multiplicity’ has overwhelmed the analysts who have continued to look desperately for the narrative, the key to unveil Libyan mysteries. Some writers have proposed ‘tribalism’ as the narrative to understand the revolution, others ‘Islamism’, and others, in turn, have demonstrated a fetishist attachment to the old narrative, reading the facts of 2011 simply as the end of ‘Qadhdhafi-ness.’ This Special Issue criticizes this phenomenon by demonstrating that post-revolutionary Libya cannot be understood by focusing on one story, one reading, or one aspect. Rather, it is necessary to consider a multiplicity of narratives, which collectively can be called upon to confront the problematic essentialist and Orientalist representations of the country. We deem this issue as an homage to Libya’s sophisticated intricacy, an attempt to demonstrate that we need to look for the multiple ‘parts’—rather than for ‘the part’—in order to understand the whole.”

The articles featured in this special issue are the following (accessible online with a subscription via the link above):

  • Capasso, Matteo. The Libyan Drawers: ‘Stateless Society,’ ‘Humanitarian Intervention,’ ‘Logic of Exception’ and ‘Traversing the Phantasy’. 387–404.
  • Cherstich, Igor. When Tribesmen do not act Tribal: Libyan Tribalism as Ideology (not as Schizophrenia). 405–421.
  • Kohl, Ines. Libya’s ‘Major Minorities’. Berber, Tuareg and Tebu: Multiple Narratives of Citizenship, Language and Border Control. 423–438.
  • Diana, Elvira. ‘Literary Springs’ in Libyan Literature: Contributions of Writers to the Country’s Emancipation. 439–451.

The articles are unfortunately behind a paywall (unless you have access via a university), but I’m sure the authors would be willing to share PDFs on an individual basis—so drop me a line if you’re interested.

Journal: The Journal of Libyan Studies | مجلة الدراسات الليبية

In this post I draw attention to a defunct journal published by a Libyan research center in the UK.

The Journal of Libyan Studies was published from 2000–2003 at a rate of two issues per year (only one appeared in 2003) before folding due to low subscriptions and infrequently submitted quality content (see here for its closing note). It was produced by the Centre for Libyan Studies based in Oxford, which also has not been active recently.

Journal of Libyan Studies Vol. 1 No. 1

Since the journal is not indexed by the usual databases, I’ve taken the liberty of scanning the table of contents of all seven issues. You can find a PDF of them at this link. There are a number of articles by well-established scholars, and furthermore, every issue had a different photograph of something Libyan on its front and back covers.  Although it doesn’t look like the journal can be purchased anymore, there is a complete set available to consult in the SOAS library. It is not to be confused with the long-running journal Libyan Studies published by the British Academy-based Society for Libyan Studies.

Also, at least one article published in the JLS has now become available online at (if more are noticed, please let me know):

Nora Lafi & Denis Boucquet. Local Élites and Italian Town-Planning Procedures in Early Colonial Tripoli 1911-1912. Journal of Libyan Studies 3/1, 59–67. link.