Article: The Everyday Politics of Reclaiming the Disappeared in Libya

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.

A Bibliography of Libyan Sociologists

As a research aid, the Libyan sociologist Mustafa al-Tir (مصتفى عمر التير) published a bilingual English-Arabic bio-bibliography of sociologists and anthropologists in Libya in the early 1980s. In it, he writes:

“Producing bibliographies and indexes, whether general or specialised, is an important concern of those organising or propagating knowledge in society…Bibliographies and indexes are, of course, essential for the development of scientific research…

I have noticed on more than one occasion that many Libyan planners and scholars ignore sociological studies which have been carried out in their own society…and that some planners seek the help of specialised experts in social sciences from abroad while native experts, no less competent and probably much more so, because of their knowledge of the language, values and systems of this society, are available…The wrong lies in their complete negligence of the works of their native colleagues.

I believe that the negligence on the part of many students, planners and specialists of the works of Libyan researchers in social sciences is due, partly at least, to their failure to recognise the availability of local experience and their ignorance of the works of Libyan researchers.”

Attir, Mustafa O. 1980(?). The Libyan Sociologists, anthropologists and social works and their scientific research. Arab Development Institute: Tripoli.

 مصتفى عمر التير. 1980. المتخصصون الليبيون في علوم الاجتماع و الانسان و الخدمة الاجتماعية و نشاطهم العلمي. معهد الانماء العربي: طرابلس

A PDF of the work can be found here.