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.

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.

Article: Amazigh Minorities from Libya in Tunisia during the 2011–2012 Uprisings

Hoffman, Katherine. Navigating the Border: Amazigh Minorities from Libya in Tunisia during the 2011-2012 Uprisings. Mobility and Minorities in Africa (May 2018): 149-171.

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.

Article: The Libyan Connection in Northern Chad

A recent article addresses some of the Saharan, and specifically Chadian connections of southern Libya, taking a longer historical look at the area’s history in order to explore conflicts such as Libya’s war in Chad in the 1980s and recent ones post-revolution.

Scheele, Judith. (2016). The Libyan Connection: Settlement, war, and other Entanglements in Northern Chad. The Journal of African History 57(1), 115-134.

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.