UNE professor honored for his scholarship on forgotten Libyan history at international conference
Ali Ahmida, Ph.D., professor and founding chair for the University of New England’s Political Science program in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, recently presented a keynote address on his book, “The Libya We Do Not Know,” at the sixth annual Arab Council of Social Sciences conference held in Beirut, Lebanon, this spring.
At the conference, over 400 international researchers attended lectures on the roots of conflicts — political, economic, and social changes — in Northern African and Middle Eastern studies.
Ahmida, known internationally for being an eminent and highly accomplished scholar of North African and Libyan political history, presented Libya from the perspective of everyday people, examining their social and cultural history.
“My research looks at society from the point of view of the ordinary folks, the men, the women — and the marginalized groups — and how they view and react to forces either at the state level or the international level,” Ahmida said. “More specifically, how societal change is redefining the features of the Arab region and its societies.”
In his most recent book, “Genocide in Libya: Shar, A Hidden Colonial History,” Ahmida recovers the overlooked atrocities of fascist Italian concentration camps in Libya between 1929 and 1934 through the oral testimonies and unexplored archival materials of survivors — shining a light on the narratives that had remained hidden from global view until recently.
“I spent ten years doing fieldwork and oral interviews and then five years verifying the evidence,” Ahmida said, noting that the book had received the 2022 L. Carl Brown Book Prize from the American Institute for Maghrib Studies for innovative intellectual achievements in North African studies. “The book has impacted our Western way of thinking about genocide — fascism — and about people with history who are completely eradicated or silenced.”
In addition to his scholarly work, Ahmida provides research opportunities and mentorship to UNE undergraduate students. Sammy Mosier, a spring 2023 graduate of UNE’s Environmental Studies program with a minor in Political Science, worked for Ahmida for two years and credits Ahmida for impacting her career path.
“While researching with Dr. Ahmida, I realized that I love critical thinking on legal studies and human rights,” Mosier said, adding that she had contemplated leaving school before working for Ahmida. “It has made me aware of what I want to do and who I want to be advocating for — and, after doing research, I have a critical lens that will help me when I'm looking through files of different legislation.”
After traveling to Lebanon's capital, Ahmida was interviewed about his education, scholarship, and teaching by the Arabic podcast program “Finjan” in New York in June.
“My university — UNE — believed and supported me, and now I have the opportunity to represent them and reflect on the originality of research and opportunities read globally,” he said.
Ahmida, born in Waddan, Libya, earned a bachelor’s in economics and political science from Cairo University in Egypt and a doctorate in political science from the University of Washington in Seattle.
His additional scholarly contributions include the books, “The Making of Modern Libya,” “Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya,” and “Post-Orientalism: Critical Reviews of North African Social and Cultural History.” He also edited “Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in the Maghrib” and “Bridges Across the Sahara.”
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