Decolonizing Tunisia’s Decolonization:
The Armed Liberation Struggle & Post-Colonial Planning
A Talk by Max Ajl
During the mid-1950s, an almost unknown and erased-from-history armed anti-colonial revolt – the Fellaga/Youssefite rebellion – rippled across the Tunisian countryside, sweeping across the width and depth of the country, even penetrating urban cores. My dissertation, Farmers, Fellaga, and Frenchmen: National Liberation and Post-Colonial Development in Tunisia, recovers the historical memory of that revolt, writing the armed struggle and its repression into the history of the Tunisian national liberation struggle and its effects on subsequent state-building efforts. In so doing I locate the place of the rural smallholder and newly landless, who although central to national liberation would be marginal to post-colonial development. This story cuts against the grain of dominant post-colonial historiography, which depicts a unitary and largely non-violent Western-oriented national struggle as the agent of independence. Such a narrative is the cement which the party has used to justify both its rule, post-colonial developmentalism, and subsequent social inclusions and exclusions. My dissertation shows how moments of collective violence, fueled by regional pan-Arab solidarities and materiel, propelled the political party which led the liberation movement, the Neo-Destour, to victory and secured the country’s sovereignty from France. Simultaneously, the repression of that struggle led to the exclusion of the marginalized countryside from subsequent state-formation and economic development plans.
October 24, 2018