Talk by Jann Boeddeling: Economic peripheralisation and subaltern self-activity in the 2010/11 Tunisian revolution
News vom 08.01.2021
Thursday, 14 January 2021, 4 to 5.30 pm
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How do conditions of socio-economic marginalisation factor in the creation of collective agency among mem- bers of subaltern social groups? The seminar will explo- re this question by looking at the revolution in Tunisia, 2010-11. It will build a bridge between Samir Amin’s the- ories of economic peripheralisation and the writings on hegemony and subaltern self-activity by Italian commu- nist thinker Antonio Gramsci, understanding the former as among the enabling structural conditions for the lat- ter. In so doing, it will complicate the notion of periphery by arguing that economic development in Tunisia, de- pendent on Europe and especially on France as its for- mer colonizer, was uneven, featuring its own, domestic core-periphery relations.
It was in this context that an increasingly unruly subaltern politics developed in the Tunisian interior regions which saw mostly young un- and underemployed men experi- ment with various forms of socio-economic claims-ma- king and resistance against police brutality. Originally demanding jobs and local economic development, their self-activity featured dynamics of learning and develop- ment through which these previously politically inexpe- rienced youth came to spearhead a development that eventually saw their entire local communities rise in re-
volt. It was this revolutionary situation, created by sub- altern social groups in the periphery, that caused groups and organisations in the country’s economic (or, with Gramsci: hegemonic) core, ranging from the single na- tional labour union to the coastal bourgeoise, to defect from a regime which they had previously largely suppor- ted. Thus, the 2010/11 Tunisian revolution provides a po- werful reminder that subaltern self-activity, drawing on popular culture and entailing dynamics of learning and development, can give rise to a politics that re-articula- tes conditions of socio-economic marginalisation in re- volutionary terms.
Dr Jann Boeddeling is a Visiting Fellow and Guest Teacher at the London School of Economics and Political Scien- ce (LSE), Department of Government. He holds a PhD and MRes (distinction) in Political Science from LSE. He is an expert in the Historical Sociology of popular politics and revolutions and has done extensive fieldwork in the Middle East and North Africa. Prior to joining LSE, he stu- died Management and Economics (BA&MA distinction) at Witten/Herdecke University, Germany, and worked in international development in the Middle East and North Africa.