Italy and France in the Fezzan | اطاليا و فرنسا في الفزان

A PhD thesis concerning the transition in the Fezzan from colonial rule by the Italians to the immediate post-colonial administration by the French has recently been completed.

Palmieri, Tomasso. Étude comparative de l’administration militaire de l’Italie et de la France au Fezzan libyen. Un cas de modèle colonial en continuité (1930-1951). Ph.D. dissertation Aix-Marseille Université / Università di Pisa (2015). [PDF, in French]

Abstract: The goal of the present research is to analyze the structural development of a brief colonial presence. Beginning from a comparative historical study, it describes the process of installation, creation, and governance of a double European colonial administration: that of fascist Italy and of France, in the Fezzan region of the southwestern Libyan desert. We show, in a longue durée perspective, how the urgency of controlling the Sahara’s extensive spaces deteremines, from the Empire’s perspective, the strategic necessity of creating a colonial macro-region to be directed solely by the military. The kernel of this thesis analyzes both the manner in which the structures of these administrations were conceived and put in place by European militaries and their real impact on the region’s social fabric. Finally, by way of conclusion we evoke elements of rupture and continuity throughout the two experiences and the consequences of colonial administrative actions in terms of independent Libya’s identity formation.

Archaeology in the Fezzan

One of the most active fields of research with regard to the Fezzan is archaeology. A British team (The Fezzan Project) has been leading work there for several decades, culminating in the publication of a number of volumes.

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 1, Synthesis. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2003).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 2, Gazetteer, Pottery and Other Finds. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2007).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2010).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 4, Survey and Excavations at Old Jarma (Ancient Garama) carried out by C. M. Daniels (1962–69) and the Fazzān Project (1997–2001). The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2013).

Bordercrossing Touareg between Niger, Algeria, and Libya

Ines Kohl. 2009. Beautiful Modern Nomads: Bordercrossing Tuareg between Niger, Algeria and Libya. Berlin.

“The Ishumar, a group of “new modern nomads” are borderliners who move between Niger, Algeria, and Libya, and in doing so not only cross territorial borders, but also social and societal boundaries and barriers. It is characteristic of the Ishumar that their way of life is one beyond traditional systems. They break away from traditional norms and values, select special elements, change them, and place them into a new context. Their ideas, concepts and ideals of beauty and aesthetics, values and morals, can be regarded as an indicator of sociocultural changes in the Sahara.”

You can see a number of pictures from the book and read an extract over at the site of Ines Kohl.

Arabic in the Fezzan

We continue our look at the Fezzan with the following work, a study of the Arabic spoken in different parts of the Fezzan by noted Arabist Philippe Marçais. Both he and his father, William Marçais, were participants in the French scientific missions to the Fezzan in the 1940s; they collected linguistic information in places in and around Sebha and Brak. In colonial French prisons in Algeria, he also met many people from the Fezzan and was able to interview them. Yet Philip Marçais’ work on these materials from the Fezzan was not completed in time to be published with other research from the French scientific mission, and ended up never being published. Only recently were his remaining papers edited and his work on Arabic in the Fezzan published posthumously.

Marçais, Philippe. 2001. Parlers arabes du Fezzân. Textes, traductions et éléments de morphologie, rassemblés et présentés par Dominique Caubet, Aubert Martin et Laurence Denooz. Geneva: Librairie Droz.

The texts gathered in the volume include i) prose recordings from everyday life, ii) poetry pertaining to special occasions, iii) epic poetry, and iv) songs. Much of this folk literature is no doubt hard to find these days. Then a second section gives a brief grammatical sketch of the dialects represented in the material and a lexicon. The material is exceedingly rich and full of interesting themes and words. Here is my dire attempt at translating an example of a camel-herders song (the ‘her’ refers to the camel):

طبّي المسارب و اشربي الرياحة     و ان شاء الله بعد الشقا ترتحي

انا اللي انورّدها و انا اللي ما علَي     انا اللي انورّدها في الفجّ اللي خالي

Follow the tracks and drink the winds, God-willing you’ll find rest after tribulations
I’m the one who waters her without worry, the one who waters her in the empty desert

Urbanization and urbanity in the Libyan Fezzan

During this month we will focus on the Fezzan, Libya’s southern region. This region is covered by so little Western journalism that a Twitter account was started simply to produce reliable information from and on it: the Fezzan Libya Media Group. It would be beneficial to focus on the Fezzan from an academic perspective, too. Like other parts of Libya, the Fezzan has interesting people, cultures, and histories. So to start off with, another open-access publication:

Villes du Sahara: Urbanisation et urbanité dans le Fezzan libyen [Cities of the Sahara: Urbanization and urbanity in the Libyan Fezzan]. ed. Olivier Pliez. CNRS Éditions (2003).

The book is divided into three sections, which discuss “the cities of the Fezzan between the State and crossroads”, “local dynamics framed by the State”, and “towards a Saharan urbanity”. An essay by the same author, also on urbanization in the Fezzan (also in French) titled “An urbanity without a city?” , is also available online.