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From Flying Carpets to No-Fly Zones: Libya’s Elusive Revolution(s), According to Ruth First, Hisham Matar, and the International Criminal Court

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AbstractThis article examines the complex and contested situation of Qadaffi’s Libya within a changing international order, from the 1969 revolution as narrated by South African historian and anti-apartheid activist Ruth First in Libya: The Elusive Revolution (1974) to its narrative reconstruction by exiled Libyan writer Hisham Matar in the semi-autobiographical novels In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011). Special attention is paid to contextualizing this historiography within the current debates emanating from international law—including international humanitarian and human rights law—regarding the disposition of multilateral forces, regional commitments, and the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) in responding to this latest of Libya’s “elusive revolutions.” Should Libya, that is, have been suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council? Referred by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court for investigation? What are the stakes? And what to make of the eventual historical and precedent-setting outcomes, the global implications—and yes, even the inevitable “unintended consequences”. . . .?

Affiliations: 1: University of Texas at Austin, URL:


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