Accepted paper:

Qaddhafi as diagrammatic exception: a graphic analysis of the end of the Jamahiriya


Igor Cherstich (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

By examining the role of diagrams in Qaddhafi's revolutionary thought we discover his state of exception: a leader who actions his diagrams without being subjected to them. In so doing, we realise that the non-diagrammatic nature of the anti-Qaddhafi revolution was a reaction against this dynamic.

Paper long abstract:

In 2011 Libya was shaken by a popular uprising. With the help of the international community - eager to protect its interests in the region - the revolution succeeded; and Libyans managed to dethrone Muammar Qaddhafi, who had been in power for forty years after leading his own revolutionary coup in 1969. Bearing this in mind, I propose that to understand the anti-Qaddhafi revolution, one has first to grasp Qaddhafi's revolution and what went wrong with it. To this aim, I explore Qaddhafi's idea of "Jamahiriya", a political system he implemented during his years in power. The Jamahiriya had a distinct diagrammatic quality: the system involved a complex constellation of popular assemblies, as elucidated, through diagrams, by Qaddhafi himself in his Green Book. In the paper we will examine these graphic traces of Qaddhafi's political imagination, but will also see how Qaddhafi imagined himself outside of these diagrams, as an exception: a figure who would make sure that the diagrammatic rules of the Jamahiriya were implemented without being subjected to them. In particular we will analyse various aspects of Qaddhafi's erratic - non-diagrammatic - behaviour, as well as his iconic residence in Tripoli, the "Magnificent Gate". As we will see, the Gate was built using diagrammatic principles that were the opposite of those of the Jamahiriya: a visual reminder of Qaddhafi's state of exception. Through this analysis we will see how in 2011 Libyans rebelled against this state of affairs, and instantiated a revolution whose principles were far from diagrammatic.

panel Pol06
Diagrams of revolution: an experiment with social and material morphologies