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Title: Political agency and the symbolic legacy of authoritarian regimes : the case of Libya
Author: Alfasi, Kawther Nuri
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 6102
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines the emergence of contentious forms of political agency during the Libyan uprising of 2011. The wave of popular protests known as the ‘Arab Spring’ challenged prevailing assumptions about the politics of the region. It was argued that, through their unfettered, claims making practices, Arab publics had undermined authoritarian structures of power, and become imbued with new, empowering self-understandings. Positioning itself within this literature on Middle East politics, the thesis sets out to analyse authoritarianism as a mode of domination, and to investigate the extent to which moments of radical contestation both transform authoritarian regimes and generate new political subjectivities. The analysis is centred on the Libyan uprising, which emerged under Qadhafi’s authoritarian Jamahiriya, yet witnessed widespread protests, civil activism and an armed conflict from February to August 2011. The thesis integrates multi-institutional politics theory with theories of contentious politics in order to conceptualise domination as located in social ‘institutions’ that are simultaneously material and symbolic. In turn, it understands agency as a strategic and symbolic representational practice that is capable of transforming institutional structures. Drawing on interviews with Libyan activists, and on the analysis of social movement discourses, the thesis advances three core arguments. Firstly, it argues that Qadhafi’s Jamahiriya embedded political agency into its system of domination by engendering complicity. Secondly, it argues that in 2011, Libyans undercut the Jamahiriya’s monopoly over meaning and practice by generating mobilising ‘collective action frames’, and by subverting its symbolic and classificatory schemas. Lastly, it indicates that representational practices ultimately struggled to transform authoritarian domination because they were bound up with the strategic logics of collective action, and because they re-inscribed the Jamahiriya’s definitions of power and collectivity. In proffering these arguments, this thesis generates a new body of empirical material on an understudied case, and critically applies, challenges and extends theories of authoritarianism and contentious politics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DT Africa ; JC Political theory