Book: Desert Borderland

Matthew Ellis, Desert Borderland: The making of modern Egypt and Libya, Stanford University Press (coming 2018).

Publisher’s blurb: “Desert Borderland investigates the historical processes that transformed political identity in the easternmost reaches of the Sahara Desert in the half century before World War I. Adopting a view from the margins—illuminating the little-known history of the Egyptian-Libyan borderland—the book challenges prevailing notions of how Egypt and Libya were constituted as modern territorial nation-states.

Matthew H. Ellis draws on a wide array of archival sources to reconstruct the multiple layers and meanings of territoriality in this desert borderland. Throughout the decades, a heightened awareness of the existence of distinctive Egyptian and Ottoman Libyan territorial spheres began to develop despite any clear-cut boundary markers or cartographic evidence. National territoriality was not simply imposed on Egypt’s western—or Ottoman Libya’s eastern—domains by centralizing state power. Rather, it developed only through a complex and multilayered process of negotiation with local groups motivated by their own local conceptions of space, sovereignty, and political belonging. By the early twentieth century, distinctive “Egyptian” and “Libyan” territorial domains emerged—what would ultimately become the modern nation-states of Egypt and Libya.”

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Open Access: The Archaeology of the Fezzan

The Archaeology of the Fezzan series is now available open access from the Society for Libyan Studies. Descriptions and download links are below.

The Archaeology of Fazzan, Volume 1: Synthesis
Edited by D. J. Mattingly (2003)

‘An extraordinary civilisation emerged on the very margins of the Classical world in the remote Libyan desert. This is a vital study of a society at the crossroads between the Mediterranean and continental Africa.’ (Professor Michael Fulford, University of Reading)

‘The Garamantes have emerged from the shadows. This study of the Fazzan from remotest antiquity to the present day is striking for the extent and range of the enquiry, the meticulousness of its documentation, and the clarity of its exposition. The completed volumes will immediately become the standard work on the region, and seem unlikely ever to be superseded.’ (Professor Roger Wilson, University of Nottingham)

This is the second volume detailing the combined results of two Anglo-Libyan projects in Fazzan, Libya’s projects in Fazzan, Libya’s southwest province. The late Charles Daniels led the first expeditions between 1958 and 1977, with David Mattingly directing the subsequent Fazzan Project from 1997-2001.

This second volume presents some of the key archaeological discoveries in detail, including a richly illustrated gazetteer of sites discovered and the first attempt at a full-scale pottery type series from the Sahara. In addition, there are separate reports on the programme of radiocarbon dating carried out, on lithics, metallurgical and non-metallurgical industrial residues and various categories of small finds (including coins, metal artefacts, beads, glass and stone artefacts).

This volume contains reports and analysis on a series of excavations carried out between 1958 and 1977 by the British archaeologist Charles Daniels, lavishly illustrated by site plans and numerous colour photographs – particularly of the rich artefact assemblages recovered. The publication is a high-profile and significant landmark in work seeking to record information about Libya’s long-term Saharan heritage. It is an indispensable reference work to the nature of Libya’s Saharan archaeology.

Book: History as Resistance

Jakob Krais, Geschichte als Widerstand: Geschichtsschreibung und nation-buildingin Qaḏḏāfis Libyen (Kultur, Recht und Politik in muslimischen Gesellschaften 34). Würzburg: Ergon (2016).

Description (German, see below for English): Libyen wird oft als eine Art „zufällige Nation“ beschrieben. Dennoch gibt es Versuche, eine einheitliche, chronologische Geschichte von der Antike bis in die Gegenwart zu formulieren. 1978 entstand unter Muammar al-Gaddafi ein eigenes Forschungszentrum – das Libyan Studies Centre (LSC) – zur umfassenden Neuschreibung der libyschen Nationalgeschichte als anti-kolonialer „Geschichte von unten“. Die vorliegende Arbeit geht diesem Geschichtsbild nach. Sie fragt nach der Entstehung eines libyschen Selbstbewusstseins im Spannungsfeld von arabischen und berberischen, maghrebinischen und afrikanischen, muslimischen und mediterranen Einflüssen. Sie fragt nach der Bedeutung des Widerstand gegen Fremdherrschaft für das nationale Geschichtsbild der LSC-Historiker – sei es nun gegen die Römer, Kreuzritter oder moderne Kolonialisten. Darüber hinaus geht die Studie der Frage nach, was es heißt, Geschichte zu dekolonisieren –indem man versucht, die Historiographie vom Einfluss der früheren italienischen Kolonialherren zu befreien. Jenseits des konkreten Falls interessiert sie sich dafür, wie es heute gelingen kann, eine postkoloniale, anti-orientalistische und nicht eurozentrische Geschichte zu schreiben.

Description (English): Libya is often described as a type of “accidental nation”. However, there have been attempts to formulate a consistent and chronological history from antiquity until the present. In 1978, under Muammar al-Gaddafi, a research center—the Libyan Studies Centre (LSC)—came into existence with the goal of writing a comprehensive Libyan national history as an anti-colonial “history from below”. The present work traces this history. It inquires about the development of a Libyan self-awareness at the crossroads of Arab, Berber, Maghrebi and African, Muslim, and Mediterranean influences. It inquires about the meaning of resistance against foreign rule for the national history of the LSC historians—be it against the Romans, Crusaders, or modern colonizers. Furthermore, this study traces the question of what it means to decolonize history, as one attempts to liberate historiography from the influence of the previous Italian colonial masters. Beyond the specific Libyan case, this study is interested in how it may be possible today to write a postcolonial, anti-orientalist, and non-eurocentric history.

Book: Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects

A new volume containing linguistic studies of Arabic dialects in Libya and Tunisia has just been published:

Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects: Common Trends – Recent Developments – Diachronic Aspects, edited by Veronika Ritt-Benmimoun. Zaragoza: Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2017.
The publisher’s description reads: “This tripartite volume with 18 contributions in English and French is dedicated to Tunisian and Libyan Arabic dialects which form part of the so-called Maghrebi or Western group of dialects. There are ten contributions that investigate aspects of Tunisian dialects, five contributions on Libyan dialects, and three comparative articles that go beyond the geographical and linguistic borders of Tunisia and Libya. The focus of “Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects” is on linguistic aspects but a wider range of topics is also addressed, in particular questions regarding digital corpora and digital humanities. These foci and other subjects investi­gated, such as the syntactic studies and the presentation of recently gathered linguistic data, bear reference to the subtitle “Common Trends – Recent Developments – Diachronic Aspects”.”
 Several essays in the book deal with aspects of Libyan Arabic dialects, in particular the following:
  • Adam Benkato, “Vowels in Benghazi Arabic: Maghrebi or Bedouin?”, pp. 291-300.
  • Najah Benmoftah & Christophe Pereira, “Preliminary Remarks on the Arabic spoken in Al-Khums (Libya)”, pp. 301-326.
  • Dominique Caubet, “A Tentative Description of Aspect and Modality in the Fezzan: W. and Ph. Marçais’ Texts Revisited”, pp. 327-350.
  • Luca D’Anna, “On the Development of Conditional Particles in the Arabic Dialects of the Fezzān”, pp. 351-370.
  • Maciej Klimiuk, “The Particle rā- in Libyan Arabic Dialects (with emphasis on the Arabic dialect of Msallāta)”, pp. 371-386.

Najwa Bin Shatwan’s The Slave Pens | زرايب العبيد لنجوى بن شتوان

The latest work of Benghazi-born writer Najwa Bin Shatwan, The Slave Pens (زرايب العبيد) has been garnering praise across the Arab literary world. She was recently shortlisted for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and a translated excerpt from her book is featured in the current issue of Banipal magazine (#58 ‘Arab Literary Awards’).

The novel is set just outside of downtown Benghazi in the early 20th century. In this part of the city, known as al-Sabri (الصابري), both enslaved and free people lived in a dense network of rudimentary palm-leaf dwellings, essentially a ghetto. Bin Shatwan is the first writer or scholar to attempt to address this aspect of Benghazi’s history in particular, perhaps the first Libyan writer to deal deeply with slavery and its legacy in Libya.

Summary: The Slave Pens lifts the lid on the dark, untold history of slavery in Libya, of which the effects can still be felt today. Slave owner Mohammed and his slave Ta’awidha have fallen in love, but their relationship is considered taboo. Living in a community where masters take female slaves as lovers as they please, Mohammed’s father sends him on a trading mission in an attempt to distance him from Ta’awidha. During his absence, his mother forces her to miscarry by serving her a spiked drink, and she is married off to another slave. On his return from his trip, Mohammed learns of his family’s activities and he begins searching for his beloved.

Interviews with the author:

http://en.qantara.de/content/libyan-author-najwa-binshatwan-on-the-slave-pens-confronting-a-dark-chapter

ادب ليبي جديد: شمس على نوافذ مغلقة

شمس على نوافذ مقغلة هو كتاب جديد من دار المنشورات المشهورة “دار الفرجاني” الليبية يضم نصوص ادبية لخمسة و عشرين كاتباً و كاتبةً من ليبيا تحت تحرير خالد المطاوع و ليلى المغربي.

من الغلاف:

في خطوة غير مسبوقة تقدم لنا مختارات “شمس على نوافذ مقلقة” نصوصاً غير اعتيادية لا يحدّها سقف، مختلفة الأجناس لشباب في أعمار طرية العود. لكن نصوصهم جذورها عميقة نصطاد كلماتها الماء العذب الصافي، تنبعث منها روائح متفاوتة تتقارب لتكوّن عطراً دافقاً بمحبة الوطن.، عطراً متمرداً على واقع وجدوا أنفسهم مغمورين فيه دونما ارادتهم، لاهثاً خلف وجود صنعه تاريخ الاجداد. –فريدة المصري

في هذا الكتاب مسح للحالة الابداعية الليبية للشباب الذين نشروا نتاجهم في الفترة ما بعد ثورة فبراير الليبية. انه يمثل المشهد الشبابي الابداعي في ليبيا كما يحب … ان هذه الكتابات السردية و الشعرية تتميز عن الكتابة الليبية السابقة بأنها كُتبت في زمن الثورة و الحرب الاهلية الناتجة عنها، و هي حرب مدن و شوارع وقودها جيل الكتاب من اخوتهم و جيرانهم و زملائهم و اصدقائهم و احبتهم، لذا تمجس للفجيعة في وقت القتل و المجان و الصدفة و العبث. –احمد الفيتوري

Sun on Closed Windows is a new collection of Libyan literature written mostly during and after the revolution of February 2011. Edited by Khaled Mattawa and Laila Moghrabi in conjunction with the Arete Foundation and the British Council, this book promises to continue to fulfill Darf (Dar al-Firgiani) Publishers’ goal of making Libyan literature available to a wider audience. Already with a few novels by Libyan authors available in English translation, Sun on Closed Windows expands Darf’s already extensive catalog of Arabic literature by Libyan authors.

Mercantile Documents from Ghadames | وثائق تجارية من غدامس

ghadames-mss219th-century documents from the collection of the Yusha‘ family—one of the most important merchant families of Ghadames during the 18th and 19th centuries—were published by the Ghadamsi scholar Bashir Qasim Yusha‘ in 1983, shedding light for the first time on the extremely wide extent of the Ghadamsi mercantile network in Africa. Merchants from Ghadames were apparently so well-known in Saharan and western Africa that in Hausa the only North African group other than  Larabawa ‘Arabs’ to have a particular designation were the Adamusawa ‘Ghadamsis’. Yusha‘’s publication is the following:

Yusha‘, Bashir Qasim. Ghadāmis: Wathā’iq tijāriyya tārikhiyya ijtimā‘iyya (1228-1310 hijri). Tripoli: Libyan Studies Center, 1983.

To my knowledge, the only Western scholar to engage with these sources was Ulrich Haarmann, who in 1988 published a lengthy (94 pages with 492 footnotes!) and wide-ranging article based on the documents:

Haarmann, Ulrich, “The Dead Ostrich: Life and Trade in Ghadames (Libya) in the Nineteenth Century“, Der Welt des Islams 38/1 (1998), 9–94.

Before his death in 1999 Haarmann had prepared German translations of many of the documents published by Yusha‘ in 1983, along with commentaries. This material was gathered and published posthumously in 2008 by a colleague of Haarmann’s:

Haarmann, Ulrich, edited by Stephan Connermann. Briefe aus der Wüste: Die private Korrespondenz der in Ġadāmis ansässigen Yūša‘-Familie (Letters from the Desert: the private correspondence of the Yusha‘ family resident in Ghadames). EB-Verlag, 2008.

Publisher’s blurb (German): “Im Jahre 1983 legte der Gadameser Gelehrte Basir Qasim Yusa der interessierten Öffentlichkeit 150 Privatpapiere – Briefe, Rechnungen, Warenlisten, Quittungen oder Geburtsregister – aus dem Besitz seiner Familie vor. Diese Dokumente, die in dem Zeitraum von 1813 bis 1917 entstanden sind, handeln alle in der einen oder anderen Weise von Mitgliedern der berberischen Familie Yusa. Geschrieben sind diese Schriftstücke in einem lokalen Umgangsarabisch, in dem sich verschiedentlich berberische oder hocharabische Einsprengsel finden. Als Verfasser kommen entweder die Absender selbst, deren schriftkundigen Bekannte oder aber bezahlte Briefschreiber in Frage. Kurz nachdem Basir Qasim Yusa seine Edition veröffentlicht hatte, begann Ulrich Haarmann sich mit den Texten zu befassen. Ein Aufenthalt am Berliner Wissenschaftskolleg im Frühjahr 1997 gab ihm Zeit und Gelegenheit, alle Befunde in einen geschlossenen Text zu gießen, der dann 1998 in der Zeitschrift Die Welt des Islams unter dem Titel „The Dead Ostrich: Life and Trade in Ghadames (Libya) in the Nineteenth Century“ publiziert wurde. Die von ihm weitgehend übersetzten Dokumente sollten einer späteren Veröffentlichung vorbehalten sein. Dazu kam es dann aber nicht mehr, denn Ulrich Haarmann verstarb 1999. Stephan Conermann hat die Übertragungen der schwierigen Texte nun zusammen mit einer längeren Einleitung in vorsichtiger Überarbeitung herausgegeben.”