Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

University Modernizing Effects on Libyan Family and Culture

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

University Modernizing Effects on Libyan Family and Culture

Article excerpt

University Modernizing Effects on Libyan Family and Culture*



In this paper I propose to treat the interplay of traditional and modernistic forces affecting Libyan educational patterns. Within this perspective the discussion and argument will focus mainly on Libyan traditional enculturation and rising educational trends. Besides the escalating university reformist drive and national concern with family socio-cultural development. The data derive chiefly from interviews and questionnaire forms filled out by a non-random sample of students totalling 160.

The theme analyzed was inspired by three years (1973-76) of teaching and research spent by the present writer at Tripoli University (later renamed al-Faith). It was clear from the beginning that students and their families have an enormous interest in college education and the degrees accruing from it, as it is happening in most of the Arab world (AlNouri, Q.N. 1975, 1990). Yet the old and young within the family tend to perceive higher education goals and practical benefits fairly differently. In particular, the normative and religioritual questions seem to prompt most of these differences. However, medicine, engineering pharmacy, and, to a lesser degree, natural sciences appear to be far more appreciated locally than humanities and liberal arts. This discrepancy, perhaps, might stem from the value-laden nature of the latter disciplines due to their closer linkage with the peoples' ideological tradition.

Universities, aside from peoples' divergent attitudes, have presented a uniquely great challenge for which we can scarcely find an antecedent in Libyan cultural history. They simply have permeated every corner of the peoples' life. The changes to which they have led, although hard to cover, include rising feminine liberty, secularism, social mobility augmenting professional ambition, declining polygyny and patriarchy, detribalisation, and most importantly a more global outlook. Yet the antithesis between higher education and local tradition cannot be underestimated or belittled, as has been noted in many Muslim societies (Lockwood, W 1972).

In short, I have tried here to shed light on specific areas of misfit between native and modern outlooks which can be traced to the university influence. It is- argued that generational disagreement varies according to the issues concerned. On the whole, however, the Libyan family appears to have achieved notable equilibrium between emerging necessities on the one hand and conventional values on the other. The old and young in the family can be said to have contributed jointly to a gradual and relatively smooth transition to an increasingly modern living.


The exemplary preoccupation of the traditional Libyan family with kinship and religion is fairly discernible in native socialization. This double-sided concern would seemingly lead to the formation of a character well fitted to the tribal social structure. Early in this century, families sent their children to private tutorial homes where they acquired elementary knowledge of the Koran. This custom had been reported in other Arab countries (Heard-Bey, 1982, Hendi, I., 1989).

Under tribalism, trustful acquaintance with outsiders was hard to flourish. The clannish and ecological factors would clearly restrict contact with other local or descent groups. We must remember that a large portion of the Libyan population previously lived on pastoralism. They moved about across the vast barren desert in search of water and grass. As among other Arab nomads (Al-Wardi, A., 1979) Libyan desert dwellers would keep a reasonable distance to avoid inter-clan rivalry and conflict over scarce pastures. The need for peace-keeping has thus dictated such aloofness between Bedouin groups. Naturally, upbringing under these circumstances would deprive children of the adequate opportunities to engage in real friendship with non-kin. …

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