The “Student Question” in Tunisia: Between the Attraction of Leftism and the Steamroll of Authoritarian Paternalism (1963-1979)

Episode 94

The “Student Question” in Tunisia: Between the Attraction of Leftism and the Steamroll of Authoritarian Paternalism (1963-1979)

In this podcast, Dr. Idriss Jebari discusses the student question’s emergence in the context of the Parisian radical sixties and the importance of Maoist insights. Jebari examines the way Perspectives seized on the “student question” in its journal in relation to the state’s reforms in the education sector and its discourse on youth faced with contestation. Jebari explores how the repressive events of 1968 and 1973 were highly revealing of Bourguiba’s thinking on Tunisian youth and how Perspectives countered it by promoting students to leadership positions. This podcast ends by depicting the atmosphere in the wing of the Tunisian prison where both generations were simultaneously held in the 1970s, as described in certain memoirs, as yet another reason to speak of many iterations of Tunisian leftism in the postcolonial era, and as an entry point to start compiling a growing archive to shed light on this occulted episode of the country’s history and work toward national reconciliation.

Dr. Jebari is Al Maktoum Assistant Professor in Middle East Studies at Trinity College Dublin. His work investigates the distinctiveness of the Maghribi critique of modernity in contemporary Arab intellectual and cultural history. He completed a doctorate on the history of the production of critical thought in Morocco and Tunisia at the University of Oxford on the intellectual projects of Moroccan thinker Abdallah Laroui and Tunisian thinker Hichem Djaït. He then held an ACSS postdoctoral fellowship at the American University of Beirut to study the dynamics of intellectual and cultural exchanges between the Maghrib and the Mashriq after 1967. He has published on the intellectual projects of several North African intellectual figures such as Abdelkebir Khatibi, Mohamed Abed al-Jabri and Malek Bennabi, and how the younger generations remember this intellectual heritage of the Arab Left. He is currently working on his first book manuscript that will address the critical societal debates that shaped North Africa’s path toward modernity in the sixties and seventies.

This podcast is part of the Contemporary Thought series and was recorded on July 22, 2019 at the Centre d'Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT).

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Posted by Hayet Lansari, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA).

Suggested Bibliography

Abdessamad, Hichem (ed.) 2019. Soixante-Huit en Tunisie : Le Mythe et le Patrimoine. Mots Passants.

Dhifallah, Mohammed. 2004. “Bourguiba et les étudiants: Stratégie en mutation (1956-1971)” in Geisser, Camau (ed.), Habib Bourguiba. La Trace et l’Heritage. Karthala: Paris. 313-324.

Entelis, John P. 1974. “Ideological Change and an Emerging Counter-Culture in Tunisian Politics”. The Journal of Modern African Studies. Vol 12:4, 543-568. 

Haugbolle, Sune. 2017. “The New Arab Left and 1967”. British Journal of Middle East Studies 44.4 497-512. 

Hendrickson, Burleigh. 2012.“March 1968: Practicing Transnational Activism from Tunis to Paris” International Journal of Middle East Studies. 44:4, 755-774.

Kallander, Amy Aisen. 2018. “Miniskirts and Beatniks: Gender Roles, National Development, and Morals in 1960s Tunisia”. International Journal of Middle East Studies. 50-2, 291-313.

Moore, Clement H. & Hoschschild, Arlie R. 1968. “Student Unions in North African Politics”. Daedalus. Vol 97:1, 21-50.

Omri, Mohamed-Salah. 2012. “The Movement Perspectives: Legacies and Representations” EuroOrient. Vol. 38:149-164.