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Pathways to revolution: three inception paths of non-state armed groups in Libya by Brian McQuinn (International Committee of the Red Cross)

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building Oxford, OX1 3UQ (map)

This event is open to the public and a light lunch will be served outside the seminar room at 12.50pm.

On 17 September 2011, seven months into the war, hundreds of Libya revolutionary battalions parked their vehicles armed with anti-aircraft guns in long rows along the four-lane highway to Sirt, anticipating the final battle of the uprising. Finding little resistance in Tripoli, or other towns recently overrun by rebels forces, no one foresaw what awaited them: two months of bloody fighting and Libya’s leader: Muammar Qadhafi. Based on seven months of fieldwork conducted during the 2011 uprising, this paper presents the first ethnographic-based evidence that there are three pathways for armed group inception.

The research examines the origins of the street-fighting units in Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, which developed into 236 armed groups, each with their own command structures, symbols, and identity. The paper offers a novel explanation for these three trajectories, arguing that general features of combatants’ memory influence the form and practice of armed group ideology and morphology.

Dr Brian McQuinn, a Harry Guggenheim Foundation Dissertation Fellow, was a Post-Doctoral Associate at the University of Oxford’s School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. He joined the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as an Adviser on the Sociology of Non-State Armed Groups. He is also a Research Associate at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding in Geneva, Switzerland and the Danish Institute for International Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark. Brian completed a doctorate at the University of Oxford based on seven months of fieldwork in Misrata, Libya during the 2011 uprising. He conducted ethnographic research with fighting groups in Misrata, studying cognition, group bonding and organisational morphology. Brian’s research has appeared in a range of media including The Guardian, Financial Times and Nature; he has also served as a commentator on BBC World Service. He has published with Oxford University Press and in various journals, including the Journal for Conflict Resolution and PS: Political Science and Politics.