INSURGENT GEOGRAPHIES: THE PRODUCTION OF TERRITORIAL LIBYA, 1835–1935
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Lohnes, Jonathan Michael
This dissertation offers a panoramic reinterpretation of Libyan state-formation in light of Ottoman archival evidence and recent advances in critical geography, particularly revisionist approaches to the history of territory. Echoing Henri Lefebvre’s description of space as the “ultimate locus and medium of struggle,” I argue that the dynamic, frequently violent interaction of a diverse cast of networked social forces—local, transregional, Ottoman imperial, and European colonial— across a vast Saharan-Mediterranean theater produced the entity we now recognize as territorial Libya from approximately 1835 to 1935. Territorial spatialization along the rural frontiers of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan is not reducible in theory to the enclosure of land or conquest of terrain— though both featured prominently within it—but also encompassed legal, diplomatic, technical-scientific, and ideological dimensions. The process unfolded in two phases: Ottoman provincialization, which transformed these areas into a “pilot province” for Istanbul’s ambitious development agenda, and Italian fascist colonization, which unified the country in the form of a colonial state after a twenty-year “pacification” campaign. Both phases unfolded at the expense of rural indigenous communities, who were targeted for disarmament, dispossession, displacement, and culminating in the ethnic cleansing of Cyrenaica in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Indigenous efforts to preserve local understandings of sovereign autonomy—up to and including “nomadic strategies” of guerrilla war—were the most historically and geographically significant factor in the production of Libyan territorial space. Modern Libya’s unique experience of territorial spatialization dislocated the country from the conceptual maps that guide us through transnational, regional, and local pathways of Global South history. Its ambivalent and fragmentary “geo-historical identity”—exemplified by the fact that Fezzan remains synonymous with “the middle of nowhere” in modern Turkish—is among the most enduring legacies of this process. Yet this inherited sense of Libya’s rural interior as the Periphery of Peripheries belies the fact that upland Tripolitania, Fezzan, and inner Cyrenaica often took center stage in the high drama of late and post-Ottoman politics. More than a microcosm of transformations underway across the Empire in its final century, this region was a critical frontline of global struggles over resources, sovereign legitimacy, geographic knowledge, and the fate of mobile and nomadic populations. All of which is to say, the middle of nowhere is the heart of the world.
Colonialism; Geography; Libya; Ottoman; Sahara; Territory
Craib, Raymond B.; Fahmy, Ziad A.
Ph. D., History
Doctor of Philosophy
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
dissertation or thesis
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