This paper will argue that the ousting of the Gaddafi regime created new symbolic and political boundaries in Libya that go beyond a simple division between those who were for and those who were against the revolution.
These boundaries have taken on the mantle of purity and impurity, of honor and dishonor. They have also become tied up in the complex power struggle that emerged with the transition to the post-Gaddafi state.
Given the highly personalized nature of the Gaddafi regime, when the state collapsed the center collapsed with it. This has left an array of local powerbrokers, ranging from militias and revolutionary brigades, to local councils, tribes, and local personalities, including those of an Islamist bent, all of whom are vying for power and influence.
It is within this context that these forces have sought to define and institutionalize these new symbolic boundaries, largely as a means of expanding their own power base.
The paper will argue, too, that the institutionalization of these boundaries is reinforcing feelings of marginalization in certain areas and among certain tribes, leaving them feeling, in the words of one Libyan, “as though they have no part to play in the new Libya.” In sum, the creation of these symbolic boundaries and their objective manifestation is hindering Libya’s efforts to transform itself into a viable functioning state.
Alison Pargeter is a specialist in North Africa and in political Islamist movements and radicalisation. She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)
Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies