Research Roundup Fall 2018

Back for your seasonal research roundup, containing sources on several totally un/under-researched areas.

After the Tunisian popular revolution of 2011, and during the civil war in Libya that followed, roadside stands near the Tunisian–Libyan bor- der near Remada, Tunisia sold nationalist souvenirs of the revolution with the reinstated Libyan flag (first flown from 1951 to 1969) as well as the Tunisian flag1. Post–independence governments in North Africa have been deeply invested in enforcing the borders they inherited from colonial regimes. Even when borders «were originally “artificial” creations, they have long since become an integral part of the lives of borderlanders. . . borders have an impact on social identities and have come to “demarcate mental space”» (Nugent and Asiwaju 1996, p. 10 in Lentz 2003, p. 274). International borders, for many people, are deeply meaningful and naturalized through socialization in school lessons, bureaucratic administrative procedures, economic systems, and even children’s play. In refugee camps and shelters on the Tunisian side of the border, Libyan children made homemade flags to decorate their temporary dwelling spaces. While «borders and borderlands define ourselves and others» (Lloyd et al 2010, p. 703 and Paasi 2003), a border in and of itself means nothing without human mediation, notably in the dual forms of policing and narration. As I explain in this article, during the first years of the Libyan civil war, the selves and others people were mediating were not only national — Tunisian and Libyan — but also ethnic: minority Amazigh (Berber) and majority Arab.

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Historically, connections between southern Libya and northern Chad have always been close, if only due to the fundamental need for connectivity that characterises most Saharan economies. Drawing on so far mostly inaccessible archival records and oral history, this article outlines the implications of this proximity, arguing that it led to intimate entanglements within families and an ongoing confusion of property rights. This in turn resulted in increased rather than diminished hostility during the years of war that opposed the two countries, as people attempted to define uncertain boundaries, and were – and still are – competing for access to similar resources, moral, symbolic, social, and economic.

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This article will challenge the currently accepted notions of weak British consular presence, influence and activity in the southern Mediterranean during the period 1795–1832 through a case study of the careers of three successive consuls in the Regency of Tripoli: Simon Lucas, William Wass Langford and Hanmer Warrington. Utilising the official cor- respondence of these agents, the extent of the consular bridgehead in the capital, Tripoli, will be investigated, and how, through these consular and diplomatic agents, it served to define imperial interests and activity at the frontiers of empire. Moreover, the overlapping personal and professional networks within which the consuls embedded themselves, the role of enterprising missions and the development of an intelligence-gathering network will be of central significance in understanding the consequent ruptures in the social and political fabric of the Regency of Tripoli. British imperial interest in North Africa during and immediately post the Napoleonic era remains under-studied and misunder- stood within both British diplomatic and imperial history. This article challenges the exist- ing literature that underestimates the diplomatic as well as consular power exercised by the British consuls to Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, as well as the importance of these three Barbary regencies to wider strategic interests in the Mediterranean.

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Zarrugh, Amina. ‘You Exile them in their Own Countries’: The Everyday Politics of Reclaiming the Disappeared in Libya. Middle East Critique 27(3), pp. 247–259.

Located in Libya’s capital city of Tripoli, Abū Salīm Prison has become suspended in Libya’s national collective memory as the site of a contested prison killing in 1996. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the prison hosted many prisoners of conscience, namely individuals who forcibly had been disappeared because security personnel suspected them of opposing the regime of Mu’amar Qadhdhafi. Drawing on interviews with their family members, I trace how Libyan families contested the state’s violence and forced disappearance through everyday behaviors, such as inquiring about their relatives’ whereabouts and visiting Abū Salīm Prison. The article contributes to an ongoing discussion within sociology, anthropology, and area studies about the significance of small-scale acts of resistance as forms of political action. Disappearance not only pulled people apart, but also brought them together, often around the same spaces that were intended to disenfranchise them.

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For a change, an article which looks, at least in part, at the Libyan south (and is open-access!):

Tabib, Rafaa. 2015. Mobilized publics in Post-Qadhafi Libya: the emergence of new modes of popular protest in Tripoli and Ubari. Mediterranean Politics 21(1), pp. 86–106

As the formal transformation process in Libya faltered and political and local elites were locked in contestation over shares of power and resources, spaces opened for non-formal movements of citizens pushing to exert influence on the political sphere, and to pursue their interests vis-à-vis state institutions with hitherto unknown forms of contentious action. This article investigates two distinctively different examples of such initiatives: on the one hand, the movement against militia rule and the extension of the mandate of the General National Congress (GNC) that emerged in Tripoli in the fall of 2013 and organized demonstrations for new elections throughout the spring of 2014. On the other, a movement for more equitable access to resources and citizenship rights that emerged in the provincial town of Ubari in the Fezzan region and gained momentum in late 2013 through the (largely peaceful) disruption of oil production. The chapter argues that through their mobilization capacities and innovative forms of contentious action, both movements compelled political and institutional actors to recognize mobilized publics as a force to reckon with, and modify the ways they interact with citizens and the general public.

 

Journal issue: Tripoli, port de mer, port de désert

Available freely online is a special journal issue from 2013, based on a workshop which took place in 2011, on the theme “Tripoli, port to the sea, port to the desert” in Paris. The special issue contains 7 articles, all in French, about different aspects of pre-modern to early-modern Tripoli. All articles can be read online as well as downloaded.

Tripoli, port de mer, port de désert: Table ronde du 25-26 novembre 2011 Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne coordonnée par Rémi Dewière et Güneş Işıksel, special issue of Hypothèses (1/16), 2013:

Rémi Dewière, Güneş Işıksel, Introduction, pp. 343–352

Dominique Valérian, Tripoli dans les réseaux d’échanges intercontinentaux à la fin du Moyen Âge, pp. 353–363

Nicola Melis, Tripoli vu par les Ottomans, pp. 365–373

Güneş Işıksel, Le statut de la Tripolitaine dans l’espace politique ottoman au xvie siècle, pp. 375–382

Rémi Dewière, «Regards croisés entre deux ports de désert»: L’enjeu des sources pour l’étude des relations entre Tripoli et le sultanat de Borno, pp. 383–393

Nora Lafi, Violence factieuse, enjeux internationaux et régulation ottomane de la conflictualité urbaine à Tripoli d’Occident entre xviiie et xixe siècles, pp. 395–403

Salvatore Bono, Tripoli 1510-1911: Historiographie et sources occidentales, pp. 405–412

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.”

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: 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. Update: for those who have access, the book is available online at Project Muse.

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.”

Two Essays on Hisham Matar’s Novels

Tasnim Qutait, “Like His Father Before Him”: Patrilineality and Nationalism in the work of Hisham Matar, Jamal Mahjoub and Robin Yassin-Kassab, Postcolonial Interventions 2/2, 2017, pp. 129–160.

Abstract: Despite recent increased attention to the study of masculinities in the Middle East, discussions of gender and nationalism in the Arab world tend to focus on the impact of the patriarchal nation-state on women. This focus, in part reflecting the persistence of essentialist discourses about the disempowered Arab woman, elides the centrality of masculinity and patrilineality to the narratives of the nation-state. In this article, I consider the implications of patrilineality in the work of three Arab British authors, identifying the centrality of the absent or distant father to the examination of nationalism and exile in this emerging literature. The article examines two novels by Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011), alongside Jamal Mahjoub’s Travelling with Djinns (2003) and Robin Yassin-Kassab’s The Road from Damascus (2008). Matar, Yassin-Kassab and Mahjoub are three writers settled in Britain and writing in English, with backgrounds in Libya, Syria and Sudan respectively. I argue that all three writers employ a narrative of failed filial relationships in order to dramatize a sense of distance from the post-independence generation, and the growing awareness of the discontinuities between an emancipatory national project and the reality of state violence.

Christopher Micklethwait, “Zenga Zenga and Bunga Bunga: The Novels of Hisham Matar and a Critique of Gaddafi’s Libya”, in The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English: The Politics of Anglo-Arab and Arab-American Literature and Culture, edited by Nouri Gana, Edinburgh University Press, 2013, pp. 171–196.

From the essay: “The two novels of Anglo Libyan author Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011), center on the abduction of their respective protagonists’ fathers at the hands of revolutionary dictatorships. In the former, the father, Faraj el Dewani, is seized by members of the Revolutionary Committee during the reign of political terror in Libya in 1979, viciously tortured in custody, and then released to his family after confessing and revealing the names of his co-conspirators. In the latter, the father, Kamal Pasha El-Alfi, an ex-minister and exiled dissident of an unnamed Arab country, is kidnapped from the home of his mistress in Geneva in the winter of 1972, never to be seen or heard from again. The thematic similarities of these plots have made it difficult not to relate them to the author’s family and personal experiences with the regime of Colonel Gaddafi, which ruled Libya from 1969 until 2011. As Matar has reported in several public interviews, his father, political dissident Jaballa Matar, vanished from Cairo in 1990 where he had been living in exile; he had been abducted by Libyan agents with the cooperation of Egyptian security forces and clandestinely repatriated to Libya where he was held, for a time, in Libya’s infamous Abu Salim prison, only to disappear completely in 1996…”

Book: Garagoz and shadow theater

In a book entitled North African Shadow-Theater*, Wilhelm Hoenerbach investigates the tradition of shadow-theater in Tunis and Tripoli, complete with texts from plays in each city as well as images of the cut-outs used in the plays in Tripoli. Hoenerbach worked in the Awqāf Library in Tripoli during the 1950s, and had the opportunity to see actual shadow-plays performed by a certain Muhammad al-Wāsṭi, apparently the last shadow-theater performer in the city. The texts in the book are in fact the entire repertoire of al-Wāsṭi’s. The book by Hoenerbach is, as far as I know, the only study of Libyan shadow-theater (or at least the only study published outside of Libya). Hoernerbach points to the connection between the forms of the plays in Tunis and Tripoli and their ultimate background in the Ottoman period.

In the hope that someone will find it useful for a study or will just read it out of interest, I scanned the text of the plays and have uploaded it here. The text is given in a Latin transcription with facing German translation, which means that it isn’t the easiest to read. I’d be very much interested in knowing more about this art form, and seeing old pictures.

*Hoenerbach, Wilhelm. 1959. Das nordafrikanische Schattentheater. Mainz: Rheingold. [Click here for PDF of the plays]