Krais (Jakob)

Jakob Krais (Ruhr Universität, Bochum), Genealogies of Democracy in Libya: Ottoman Reforms, Italian Colonialism, and Popular Resistance in Qaddafi-Era Historiography

The paper will analyze Qaddafi-era historiography, questioning the construction of a genealogy of democracy from Libyan history. In the historiographical narrative, the “second” Ottoman period (1835-1911) received ambivalent interpretations. On the one hand, it was seen as an important time of state-building and modernization, especially with regard to the administrative and educational reforms of the Tanzimat and Hamidian eras. The establishment of new municipalities, in particular, was viewed as an important step in the development of Libyans’ participation in government. On the other hand, in most accounts, with their Arab nationalist perspective, Ottoman rule was presented as a form of foreign domination. Hence, popular, “tribal” resistance was deemed more important for the formation of popular sovereignty than representative state institutions. This view was in line with the Jamahiriyya system in place in Libya between 1977 and 2011, allegedly a total and direct — non-representative — democracy (yet under the dictatorial control of Qaddafi). In this political context, the representative institutions of early Italian colonial rule, based on the Fundamental Laws of the immediate post-WWI period, did not play a role in the historiography. Instead, a genealogy of democratic legitimacy could only be constructed via “revolutionary” action by the “people.”

Jakob Krais is currently a researcher at the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Ruhr-Universität Bochum. There, he is doing his habilitation, tentatively entitled “Shaping the Modern Body: A Somatic Cultural History of Late Colonial Algeria, c. 1919-1962.” He obtained his PhD in Islamic Studies from Freie Universität Berlin in 2014, with a dissertation on historiography in Qaddafi’s Libya. Publications include: “Claiming the Libyan Space: Fascist lieux de mémoire in North Africa” in Mediterráneos: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Cultures of the Mediterranean Sea, ed. Sergio Carro Martín et al. (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2013); Geschichte als Widerstand. Geschichtsschreibung und nation-building in Qaḏḏāfīs Libyen. (Würzburg: Ergon, 2016); “Re-Centering Libya’s History: Mediterranean Bulwark, Defender of Africa, or Bridge between Continents?Lamma: A Journal of Libyan Studies 1 (2020); “The French Connection: Political Islam from the Algerian War to the Iranian RevolutionMiddle Eastern Studies 58, no. 1 (2022).

جاكوب كرايس  باحث ألماني مستقل

أنساب “الديمقراطية” في ليبيا الإصلاحات العثمانية والاستعمار الايطالي والمقاومة الشعبية في فترة


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