Article: “Omar al-Mukhtar and the formation of cultural memory”

Nasser, Hala Khamis & Marco Boggero. 2008. “Omar al-Mukhtar: the formation of cultural memory and the case of the militant group that bears his name.” Journal of North African Studies 13(2), pp. 201–217.

Abstract:

“This paper investigates how the martyr figure of Omar al-Mukhtar (1858–1931) became a popular transnational icon in Africa, Asia and the Arab world. Originally part of the history of Cyrenaica, Omar al-Mukhtar became part of Arab culture during the struggle against colonialism and is now part of a suggested Arab ‘imagined community’. The paper explores how his memory has been shaped in new and multiple ways in contemporary culture and politics of Middle East and North Africa. Al-Mukhtar’s historic character has crossed the Libyan boundaries and the Cyrenaican leader became instrumental not only in the history of modern Libya, but contributed to the formation of different forms of Arab nationalism during their struggle against colonialism. The authors investigate how the construction of martyrdom developed and show that the pattern of collective memory did not proceed unambiguously. Further, they demonstrate how the martyr’s legacy has been and is still utilised for political mobilisation and make the case by studying the activities of transnational insurrection groups – the ‘brigades’ or ‘forces of Omar al-Mukhtar’ from its original inceptions to recent occurrences.”

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Article: “La guérilla libyenne”

An article about anti-colonial resistance in Libya and its intersections with resistance movements in North Africa in general, from a somewhat old edited volume on the Riffian resistance leader Abd el-Krim (click on the link for PDF):

Rosalba Davico, “La guérilla libyenne (1911–1932). Impérialisme et résistance anticoloniale en Afrique du Nord dans les années 1920,” in Abd el-Krim et la République du Rif. Actes du colloque international d’études historiques et sociologiques, 18–20 janvier 1973 (Paris: Maspero, 1976), 402–440.

Article: Five Letters from the Tripoli Archives

Here is an older article for those interested in Libyan archives and the history of Tripoli.

B. G. Martin, “Five Letters from the Tripoli Archives,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 2/3 (1962), 350–372.

“The five Arabic letters which form the basis of this article date from 1846 to 1870. They throw some light, but only on details, of the relations of Bornu with Tripoli during the second Ottoman period (1835-1911), under the reigns of Shaykhs ‘Umar bin Muhammad al-Amīn al-Kānimī and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmān. The interest of these letters is at once historical and indicative, pointing to other discoveries of documents relevant to Nigerian history which will doubtless be made at Tripoli, and further, at the Başvekālet Arşivi in Istanbul, whence the bulk of the Tripoli archives of the late second Ottoman period was doubtless removed soon after the Italian conquest of Libya in 1911. Three of these five letters (Letters One, Two and Three) are internal Tripolitanian Government correspondence about Bornu affairs, while Letter Four is a copy of a diplomatic communication addressed by Mustafa Nūri Pāshā of Tripoli to Shehu (Shaykh) ‘Abd al-Rahmān of Bornu. Letter Five is an example of the Bornu diplomatic correspondence preserved at the Tripoli Archives, and was addressed by Shaykh ‘Umar to the Mushīr ‘Ali Ridā Pāshā of Tripoli.”

Article: Languages in Libya, building blocks of national identity…

Baldinetti, Anna. 2018. “Languages in Libya: building blocks of national identity and soft power tools,” The Journal of North African Studies 23/3 (Special issue: Soft Power in the Maghrib after the Arab Uprisings), pp. 418–439.

Abstract: Tracing the general lines of language policies in Libya since independence, this article discusses how Arabic has been instrumental in forging a national identity, and examines its role as a soft power tool used by Qadhafi’s regime through the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), established in 1972, which prioritised the teaching of the Arabic language. The article seeks to understand whether the 2011 revolution – at least until 2013, before the beginning of the ongoing internal conflict – has challenged the role of Arabic as the only constituent language of national identity.

Article: Italian colonial psychiatry in Libya

Scarfone, Marianna. 2016. Italian colonial psychiatry: outlines of a discipline, and practical achievement in Libya and the Horn of Africa. History of Psychiatry 27(4), pp. 389–405.
Abstract:
This article describes the establishment of psychiatry in Italy’s former colonies during the period 1906–43, in terms of the clinical and institutional mechanisms, the underlying theories and the main individuals involved. ‘Colonial psychiatry’ (variously called ‘ethnographic’, ‘comparative’ or ‘racial’ psychiatry) – the object of which was both to care for mentally afflicted colonists and local people and also to understand and make sense of their pathologies – received most attention in colonial Libya, starting in the first months of the Italian occupation (1911–12) and then taking institutional form in the 1930s; in the colonies of what was known as ‘Italian East Africa’, on the other hand, less was said about psychiatric care, and practical achievements were correspondingly limited.

Article: The music of Dania Ben Sasi in 2011

On the anniversary of the revolution, we’re sharing a new article by Leila Tayeb, “Our star: Amazigh music and the production of intimacy in 2011 Libya” out in the Journal of North African Studies, about the music of Libyan Amazigh singer Dania Ben Sasi during the events of the 2011 revolution.

The abstract is:

This article explores the production and circulation of Amazigh music among Libyans between 2011 and 2013. It takes as a focal point the performance archive of Serbian-Libyan Amazigh singer Dania Ben Sasi, whose Amazigh-language music found unprecedented fame in Libya in 2011. Through close readings of her initial musical recording of that year, interviews with Ben Sasi and listeners, analysis of performances onstage and in daily life, and drawing on ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Libya, Serbia, and Tunisia, I present a brief history of a temporary moment of political possibility. I suggest that the formation of an intimate public around Amazigh music in Libya offered glimpses of an unfinished future in which popular practices of recognition could still be built.

The article appears to be freely accessible online at the above link.

Book: Jewish Libya, Memory and Identity

jewish240A new book, Jewish Libya: Memory and Identity in Text and Image, edited by the Libyan Jewish writers and scholars Jacques Roumani (†), David Meghnaghi, and Judith Roumani, is coming out soon from Syracuse University Press. It includes chapters on Libyan Jewish language, cuisine, history, social change, women, diaspora, and biographical and liturgical literatures. A table of contents can be found at this link.

From the publisher’s description:

“In June 2017, the Jews of Libya commemorated the jubilee of their complete exodus from this North African land in 1967, which began with a mass migration to Israel in 1948–49. Jews had resided in Libya since Phoenician times, seventeen centuries before their encounter with the Arab conquest in AD 644–646. Their disappearance from Libya, like most other Jewish communities in North Africa and the Middle East, led to their fragmentation across the globe as well as reconstitution in two major centers, Israel and Italy.

Distinctive Libyan Jewish traditions and a broad cultural heritage have survived and prospered in different places in Israel and in Rome, Italy, where Libyan Jews are recognized for their vibrant contribution to Italian Jewry. Nevertheless, with the passage of time, memories fade among the younger generations and multiple identities begin to overshadow those inherited over the centuries. Capturing the essence of Libyan Jewish cultural heritage, this anthology aims to reawaken and preserve the memories of this community. Jewish Libya collects the work of scholars who explore the community’s history, its literature and dialect, topography and cuisine, and the difficult negotiation of trauma and memory. In shedding new light on this now-fragmented culture and society, this collection commemorates and celebrates vital elements of Libyan Jewish heritage and encourages a lively inter-generational exchange among the many Jews of Libyan origin worldwide.”