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.
For a change, an article which looks, at least in part, at the Libyan south (and is open-access!):
Tabib, Rafaa. 2015. Mobilized publics in Post-Qadhafi Libya: the emergence of new modes of popular protest in Tripoli and Ubari. Mediterranean Politics 21(1), pp. 86–106
As the formal transformation process in Libya faltered and political and local elites were locked in contestation over shares of power and resources, spaces opened for non-formal movements of citizens pushing to exert influence on the political sphere, and to pursue their interests vis-à-vis state institutions with hitherto unknown forms of contentious action. This article investigates two distinctively different examples of such initiatives: on the one hand, the movement against militia rule and the extension of the mandate of the General National Congress (GNC) that emerged in Tripoli in the fall of 2013 and organized demonstrations for new elections throughout the spring of 2014. On the other, a movement for more equitable access to resources and citizenship rights that emerged in the provincial town of Ubari in the Fezzan region and gained momentum in late 2013 through the (largely peaceful) disruption of oil production. The chapter argues that through their mobilization capacities and innovative forms of contentious action, both movements compelled political and institutional actors to recognize mobilized publics as a force to reckon with, and modify the ways they interact with citizens and the general public.
On the anniversary of the revolution, we’re sharing a new article by Leila Tayeb, “Our star: Amazigh music and the production of intimacy in 2011 Libya” out in the Journal of North African Studies, about the music of Libyan Amazigh singer Dania Ben Sasi during the events of the 2011 revolution.
The abstract is:
This article explores the production and circulation of Amazigh music among Libyans between 2011 and 2013. It takes as a focal point the performance archive of Serbian-Libyan Amazigh singer Dania Ben Sasi, whose Amazigh-language music found unprecedented fame in Libya in 2011. Through close readings of her initial musical recording of that year, interviews with Ben Sasi and listeners, analysis of performances onstage and in daily life, and drawing on ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Libya, Serbia, and Tunisia, I present a brief history of a temporary moment of political possibility. I suggest that the formation of an intimate public around Amazigh music in Libya offered glimpses of an unfinished future in which popular practices of recognition could still be built.
The article appears to be freely accessible online at the above link.
An article written by Libyan Amazigh activist Asma Khalifa has recently appeared in a collection on North African women and the recent revolutions.
Asma Khalifa, “Women in Libya: The Ongoing Armed Conflict, Political Instability and Radicalization”, in North African Women after the Arab Spring: In the Eye of the Storm, edited by Larbi Touaf, Soumia Boutkhil, Chourouq Nasri (Springer, 2017), 239–249.
About the book:
“This book looks with hindsight at the Arab Spring and sheds light on the debates it triggered within North African societies and the alarming developments in women’s rights. Although women played a key role in the success of the uprisings that wiped out long ruling oligarchies across the region, they remain excluded from decision-making circles and the formal political and electoral apparatus. Women’s rights are written off constitution drafts, and issues of gender equality are hardly addressed. The chapters that compose this volume present research and reflections from different perspectives to help the reader get a better picture of the profound turmoil that beset this part of the so-called “Arab” World. Adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, the contributors discuss a host of questions related to women and gender in the Arab world and address the broader question of why women’s efforts and momentum during the revolution did not seem to pay off the same way they did for men. This book provides an assessment of the situation from the inside. It is intended to help the general public as well as the academic world comprehend the significance of what is going on in this key part of the Islamic World.”
In Voices of the Arab Spring, edited by Asaad al-Saleh (Columbia, 2015), there are sections devoted to personal stories from the revolutions in different Arab countries. The section on Libya contains several essays:
- My Mission in the Libyan Revolution by Mohammed Zarrug
- Fighting Qaddafi: More Determination Than Weapons by Khairi Altarhuni
- The Dark Night on the Tripoli Front by Abdulmonem Allieby
- Fighting for Freedom by Ehab Ibrahim al-Khinjari
- From School to the Battlefield by Yusef Mohamed Benruwin
- Living Through the Libyan Uprising by Gay Emmaya Tongali
- Benghazi, My Love by Adel el-Taguri
- My Work in Revolutionary Libya by Annabelle Veso Faller
- The Days of My Life by Ezedin Bosedra Abdelkafi
- Blood for My Country by Aisha A. Nasef
Although this blog shies away from contributing even more noise to the (often incoherent) Western din that is writing on politics in modern Libya, it is important to draw attention to less common but absolutely necessary approaches to any topic within Libyan studies. Here is a recent article on the politics of gender and inclusion by the well-known scholar and activist, Zahra’ Langhi (whom we’ve already mentioned here), co-founder of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace.
Zahra’ Langhi. “Gender and state-building in Libya: towards a politics of inclusion.” Journal of North African Studies 19/2 (2014), pp. 200-210.
Abstract: The Libyan Revolution marks a watershed moment in Libyan history and more specifically in the history of women’s participation in the public space. Women were at the forefront of the demonstrations as protesters, medical workers, and aid providers, as well as organising behind the scenes and in the diaspora calling for political change and a just inclusive transition to democracy. However, they have been systematically excluded from the public sphere facing intense de-politicisation and silencing at a crucial moment in their national political transformation process. The Libyan Revolution appears here, similar to other Arab revolutions, to present a ‘gender paradox’. On one hand, women are the politically empowered agents of the Revolution and change. On the other hand, they are the victims of a new kind of political violence and exclusion. Thus, there is a need to address women’s participation in the public sphere from a different approach than the usual ‘women’s empowerment’ approach. The suggested approach here is a more inclusive participatory integrated one of political and normative frameworks. Women’s role should not be limited to defending women’s rights issues or just their formal numerical representation in decision-making bodies. Rather they should struggle to become influential shapers of a new discourse of politics of inclusion which rests upon inclusive state-building, gender-equitable institutional reform, inclusive social transformation, demilitarisation and peace-building.
*For an electronic version of the article, contact me.
A topic of renewed relevance amidst increasing partisanship, resurfacing of old loyalties, and neo-colonial interests by Western nations is treated in this contribution by Libyan historian Ali Ahmida to a special issue on North African revolutions: “Libya, Social Origins of Dictatorship, and the Challenge for Democracy.” Journal of the Middle East and Africa 3 (2012), 70–81.
The abstract is as follows:
This article analyzes the 2011 revolution in Libya by focusing on three elements: the Qaddafi regime’s failure to address the question of political reform and its subsequent alienation of important elite groups within the country; the impact of demography, urbaniza- tion, and global social media on the progress of the revolution; and the success of an enterprising revolutionary leadership within Libya that was able to obtain critical diplomatic and military sup- port from the United Nations, the Arab League, and NATO. The main thesis of this article is that the regime’s inability to make serious political reforms appropriate to changes occurring in the economy, education, and society eventually led to conflict between a dynamic social structure and a rigid political system that was unable to meet the demands and grievances of new social forces, especially unemployed youth. The gap between the Libyan youth and the ruling elite undermined the gains achieved by the regime during the 1970s and eventually led to the formation of an alie- nated revolutionary coalition. Had Muammar Qaddafi responded with openness to the calls for reform and not overreacted to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the urban elite in Libya might have been placated and the violent rebellion might have been avoided.