Two recent articles on Libya after 2011

Two articles about Libyan politics and policy after 2011 have been published in The Journal of North African Studies:

Sabina Henneberg. 2019. Comparing the first provisional administrations in Tunisia and Libya: some tentative conclusions. The Journal of North African Studies, 24:2, 226-246.

This article compares the actors, institutions and strategies of the first Tunisian Provisional Administration (TPA), which was in place from the departure of authoritarian President Ben Ali until the elections for a National Constituent Assembly, with those of the Libyan National Transition Council (NTC), in place from the start of authoritarian collapse to the first post-uprising elections. The two first provisional administrations exhibited important differences. Key actors in the TPA were ‘soft-liners’ from the old regime and a network of civil society actors, while in the NTC armed groups soon became the most important actors. Functioning state institutions also permitted the TPA to carry out its work more effectively. Finally, the two provisional administrations deployed very different strategies, with the TPA operating on a basis of dialogue and consensus while the NTC often struggled to reach collective decisions. The paper argues that, while many of the differences between the two first provisional administrations can be traced back to different historical and structural influences and these channeled actors’ decisions, the first provisional administrations nonetheless had opportunities to shape later phases of change.

Elvira Sánchez-Mateos. 2019. Internal dystrophy and international rivalry: the (de-)construction of Libyan foreign policy. The Journal of North African Studies, 24:3, 468-489.

This case study of Libya’s foreign policy after the regime change in 2011 represents a major analytical challenge, since the country’s massive internal dysfunctions – extreme weakness of the state, the emergence of new elites, proliferation of private actors, power competition and widespread violence – have prevented the normalisation of its political and economic life and, consequently, the normalisation of its foreign policy. However, this does not mean that there is no Libyan ‘foreign policy’, or perhaps a number of intertwined foreign policies, as different Libyan political actors have been proactive in establishing contacts and maintaining alliances – often antagonistic – with external powers. Libya’s recent evolution provides some indication of what its foreign policy might look like in the future, once the situation in the country has normalised. On the one hand, it is possible to determine the external determinants on both the regional and global level, which have and will have the most influence on Libyan foreign policy. On the other hand, with all the caution required to interpret the current unstable and fluid situation, an analysis of the political process and the behaviour of the actors in Libya highlights some key issues that constitute the universe of Libyan interests abroad and, consequently, the top priorities of its foreign policy, which will inevitably focus on hydrocarbons and security in any future scenario. Finally, the article addresses whether discontinuity in domestic politics resulting from regime change might lead to a structural modification of Libya’s external behaviour.

Article: Deportation and Transportation of Libyans during the Colonial Era

Francesca Di Pasquale, “The “Other” at Home: Deportation and Transportation of Libyans to Italy During the Colonial Era (1911–1943)”, International Review of Social History, Volume 63 (Special Issue S26 Transportation, Deportation and Exile: Perspectives from the Colonies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries), 2018, pp. 211-231

This article analyses the practices of deportation and transportation of colonial subjects from Libya, Italy’s former possession, to the metropole throughout the entire colonial period (1911–1943). For the most part, the other colonial powers did not transport colonial subjects to Europe. Analysing the history of the punitive relocations of Libyans, this article addresses the ways in which the Italian case may be considered peculiar. It highlights the overlapping of the penal system and military practices and emphasizes the difficult dialogue between “centre” and “periphery” concerning security issues inside the colony. Finally, it focuses on the experience of the Libyans in Italy and shows how the presence there of colonial subjects in some respects overturned the “colonial situation”, undermining the relationship of power between Italians and North Africans.

The article appears to be available open-access.

Journal Issue: Quaderni di archeologia della Libya #21

The latest issue of Quaderni di archeologia della Libya (#21)—one of the three academic journals which cover archaeological-related topics in Libya—is out. It hadn’t appeared since 2003, due no doubt to the complications of carrying out work in Libya during the regime and afterwards. But at the price of €230 for a hard copy or €184 for an ebook, and without online subscription options, it’s basically unobtainable. At least the table of contents of the latest issue can be viewed here.

Special Issue: Gender and transnational histories of Libya

A special issue on the theme “Gender and transnational histories of Libya” has recently been published in The Journal of North African Studies, co-edited by Barbara Spadaro and Katrina Yeaw.

The introduction to the special issue is freely available online and is worth reading:

This series of articles focuses on Libya to investigate how individual and collective identities are imagined, experienced, and narrated in a mobile and interconnected world. Drawing from original and unexplored sources in seven different languages, our case studies illuminate subjects and circuits long neglected from historiography, and yet crucial for the understanding of the transnational and transcultural memory of Libya. Our critical engagement with ways in which histories of Libya have been materialised, colonised, regimented and forgotten reflects a wider shift across the academic discipline of History.

The contents include the following articles:

Article: Fascist Violence and the ‘Ethnic Reconstruction’ of Cyrenaica

Michael R. Ebner, “Fascist Violence and the ‘Ethnic Reconstruction’ of Cyrenaica (Libya), 1922–1934” in Violence, Colonialism and Empire in the Modern World, eds. Dwyer, Philip, Nettelbeck, Amanda, pp. 197-218 (Palgrave, 2017).

In the spring of 1931, Italian colonial authorities ordered the construction of a fence on the border between Libya and Egypt. By September, 270 kilometres of cement, chain-link fence, and barbwire stretched from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Oasis of Jaghbub. Italian authorities constructed the fence in order to deny Omar al-Mukhtar and his resistance fighters safe-havens and material support in neighbouring Egypt. Thus Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya, which was already completely separated from Tripolitania (Libya’s western province) by the desert of Sirtica, had now been also cut off from Egypt to the east of the fence. The peoples of Cyrenaica, particularly those living on the fertile highlands of the Jebel Akhdar, were the major source of support for Omar al-Mukhtar’s anti-colonial insurgency. The year before the fence went up, Italian authorities ordered the deportation and internment of between one-half and two-thirds of the civilian population of Cyrenaica—between 90,000 and 110,000 people

Article: Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Post-Revolution Libya

Susan Kane, “Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Post-Revolution Libya“, Near Eastern Archaeology 78/3, Special Issue: The Cultural Heritage Crisis in the Middle East (September 2015), pp. 204-211.

Abstract: Libya’s cultural heritage is facing significant threats and damage, not only from unregulated development, but also increasing acts of civil disorder. With two de facto governments claiming authority in the country, no clearly operating constitution, contesting militias, and rising religious extremism, more damage is being done to the country’s cultural heritage than was caused by the events of the 2011 Revolution. During the Gaddafi regime, Libya’s cultural heritage from the pre-Arab period was seen as a reminder of Libya’s colonial past and therefore neglected for political reasons. And given the many challenges facing the new Libya, it is not surprising that cultural heritage struggles for recognition and protection. Working within this challenging environment, the Libyan Department of Antiquities continues to negotiate the protection of cultural sites in contested areas and to draw up plans for emergency inventory, crisis planning, and protection work. Despite their best efforts, it remains unclear what the future will hold for the cultural heritage of Libya.

Book: The First World War from Tripoli to Addis Ababa (1911-1924)

A new and entirely open-access collected volume on the African colonial role in the First World War, and one co-edited and co-published by African scholars:

Shiferaw Bekele, Uoldelul Chelati Dirar, Volterra, A., & Zaccaria, M. (Eds.), The First World War from Tripoli to Addis Ababa (1911-1924). Addis Abbaba: Centre français des études éthiopiennes, 2018.

For a long time now it has been common understanding that Africa played only a marginal role in the First World War. Its reduced theatre of operations appeared irrelevant to the strategic balance of the major powers. This volume is a contribution to the growing body of historical literature that explores the global and social history of the First World War. It questions the supposedly marginal role of Africa during the Great War with a special focus on Northeast Africa. In fact, between 1911 and 1924 a series of influential political and social upheavals took place in the vast expanse between Tripoli and Addis Ababa. The First World War was to profoundly change the local balance of power.

This volume consists of fifteen chapters divided into three sections. The essays examine the social, political and operational course of the war and assess its consequences in a region straddling Africa and the Middle East. The relationship between local events and global processes is explored, together with the regional protagonists and their agency. Contrary to the myth still prevailing, the First World War did have both immediate and long-term effects on the region. This book highlights some of the significant aspects associated with it.

The entire book is fascinating and opens up new areas of research tying into dynamics of which Libya was ultimately a part. The specific essays concerning Libya are: