Misurata: a market town in Tripolitania

misrata-market-picA small booklet published by the Durham Dept. of Geography in 1968, Misurata: a market town in Tripolitania by G. H. Blake is one of the few (=2 or 3) studies available on Misrata (مصراتة‎) in a western language. The brief introduction is below, and a PDF of the entire booklet is available by clicking here.

“The small towns of the Middle East and North Africa have received so little attention from geographers hitherto that there is a need for case-studies of this kind if only as prologomena for intensive future investigations. Several factors combined to permit little more than a superficial study of Misurata in the summer of 1966; the paucity of statistics, the lack of large scale maps and air photographs while fieldwork was being carried out, and above all the limited time available. In spite of these difficulties an attempt was made to examine the functions and morphology of a market town which is still strongly traditional in character, with a high proportion of the population deriving their living from the sale of goods and services in the market. Some of the results of this work are presented in the following pages. While there may not be much that is methodologically exciting, it is hoped that its publication will be fully justified by its timing, for in 1966 it was already clear that the cultural ethos and economic functions of Misurata are on the threshold of great changes.

Libya’s immense oil revenues have touched every aspect of national life and in Misurata have resulted in a spate of public and private building which is beginning to transform the ancient skyline of minarets, palm trees and low, flat-roofed houses, bringing into being an essentially European-type architecture and ground plan. In the next few years the town will develop from being a regional market to a genuine regional centre with significant functions in serving through traffic. The projected North African highway will pass nearby; Casr Ahmed is to be revived as a naval and military base; and there are plans to develop and settle the vast ex-Italian estates to the south and west. The people of Misurata are famous for their commercial enterprise and will not be slow to make good use of the opportunities thus presented, just as they have been quick to establish light industries in response to the building boom.

The promise of rapid modernisation makes Misurata a town of particular interest since it epitomises the problems of renewal and development in larger cities of cultures. It remains to be seen whether the Master Plan of the town, now being prepared in Rome, will succeed in preserving what is good in the old while creating a town capable of discharging its ever-growing social and economic responsibilities to the surrounding region.” (p. 1)

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Human Geography and Colonial Libya |الجغرافية البشرية، الاستعمارية و ليبيا

We turn to the colonial period to bring to light a series of studies regarding human geography and the fascist project in Libya. The scholar David Atkinson (University of Hull, UK) describes his work as follows:

نرجع الى عصر الاحتلال الايطالي لتسليط الضوء على سلسلة دراسات موضوعها الجغرافية البشرية و المشروع الفاشستي في ليبيا. مؤلّفها الاستاذ داڤيداتكِنسُن بجامعة هُل ببريطانيا يصف بحوثَه كالتالي

“[This] interest revolves around the geographies of Italian colonialism. Work here reflects broader postcolonial initiatives but focuses particularly upon the constitution of colonial space through the spatial practices of exploration, geographical survey and other forms of knowledge production. I also explore the construction of colonial bodies through geographical and anthropological survey and mapping, and the connected demonisation, spatial disciplining and persecution of nomadic subjects by Italian colonial discourse and policies. Finally, this research also explores theoretical attempts to engage desert landscapes, and also critiques the stuttering progress of colonial memory in postcolonial Italy.”

Atkinson, David. 1996. “The Politics of Geography and the Italian Occupation of Libya.” Libyan Studies 27, pp. 71-84.

Atkinson, David. 1999. “Nomadic Strategies and Colonial Governance: domination and resistance in Cyrenaica, 1923-1932.” In The Entanglement of Power: Geographies of Domination / Resistance, eds. J. Sharp et al. London: Routledge, pp. 93-121.

Atkinson, David. 2003. “Geographical knowledge and scientific survey in the construction of Italian Libya.” Modern Italy 8/1, pp. 9-29.

Atkinson, David. 2005. “Myths of the desert of empty space: enduring European imaginaries of North Africa and the challenges of material geographies.” In Libia Oggi, ed. P. Gandolfi. Bologna: Il Ponte, pp. 107-122.

Atkinson, David. 2007. “Embodied resistance, Italian anxieties, and the place of the nomad in colonial Cyrenaica.” In In Corpore: Bodies in Post-Unification Italy, eds. L. Polezzi & C. Ross. Madison: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, pp. 56-79.

Atkinson, David. 2012. “Encountering Bare Life in Italian Libya and colonial amnesia in Agamben.” In  Agamben and Colonialism, eds. M. Svirsky & S. Bignall. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 155-177.