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This chapter examines digital intimacy and violence in urban Libya during the past decade (2011–2021). It explores practices of in-app chatting, texting, phone calls, and social media video creation, all of which have become even more vital in a period characterized by war-impelled displacement and long periods indoors due to both conflict and COVID-19. These platforms and habits of daily life illustrate how the modes, conditions, and politics of forming intimate relationships in and outside of Libya have changed concurrently with the past decade’s war and its attendant processes of increased militarization and widespread traumatization. While young people have looked in particular to the social norm of marriage as a way of imagining security, the continuation of life, and a future beyond the ongoing conflict, whether in or outside of Libya, they have also negotiated the encroachment of the war into the intimate spheres of their lives, including the avenues by which they seek a potential partner, the grounds on which they obtain broader familial agreement, and the gendered traumas that shape their relationships.

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  1. 1.

    Interlocutors’ names, where used, and some other identifying information have been changed to protect anonymity.

  2. 2.

    My research for this chapter has primarily reflected the conditions and constraints of heterosexual intimacies in this period in Libya. The wide range of practices that exceed these normativities are certainly extant and subject to a different set of constraints and violences, upon which ethnographic research is sorely needed.

  3. 3.

    Cafés, in particular, that are open to mixed-gender youth have faced militia attacks in both Tripoli and Benghazi in the years since 2011. Most often the militias taking action describe the closures or disruptions of business as being a result of something other than the gender-mixing taking place. For example, Tripoli’s Kitty Cat Café, which operated for a brief period circa 2017, was ostensibly in violation of public health codes, while the nearby Coffee & Book slowly declined after its bookshelves were removed.

  4. 4.

    An incomplete list of only the most well-publicized incidents, in chronological order: TV journalist Naseeb Kernafa was tortured and killed, along with her driver, in the southern city of Sebha on 29 May 2014. Salwa Boughaigis, human rights lawyer and activist, was assassinated in her Benghazi home on 25 June 2014, hours after using her Facebook page to publish photos of herself voting. Three weeks later, former MP Fariha al-Barkawi was shot and killed beside a gas station in Derna. In February of the following year, human rights activist Intissar al-Hassairi was murdered along with her aunt in Tripoli, their bodies discarded in the trunk of their car. More recently, MP Seham Sergiwa was abducted by gunman in July 2019, and remains missing at the time of this writing. Political activist Hanan al-Barassi was assassinated in Benghazi in November 2020. See:;;;;;;;;

  5. 5.

    For more on the shift from revolutionary to militia formations, see Tayeb (2020) and Wehrey (2018: 85–103).

  6. 6.

    On ethnography and trauma, see the Trauma and Resilience blog series edited by Beatriz Reyes-Foster and Rebecca Lester at anthro{dendum}: For a discussion of efforts in the cultural sphere to combat the social effects of trauma in the Libyan context, see Gana (2020).

  7. 7.

    This is one way that Telegram, along with similar apps such as Signal, has been used by extremist groups, activist movements, and other collectives who aim to avoid monitoring. See, for example, Feldstein and Gordon (2021).

  8. 8.

    The Libyan conflict has the terrible distinction of being a frontier in the use of AI-directed aerial drones, adding new dimensions to the tragedies inflicted via bombing campaigns. See Cramer (2021).


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Correspondence to Leila Tayeb .

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Tayeb, L. (2023). Digital Intimacy and Violence in Contemporary Libya. In: Skalli, L.H., Eltantawy, N. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Gender, Media and Communication in the Middle East and North Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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