The article argues that the social life of racialization in Tunisia can be traced back to colonial norms and that one cannot speak of racialization in isolation of class differentials, elements that arose historically with the spread of the tandem colonialism-capitalism in North Africa. From a direct form of racialized violence leaving Muslim Tunisians on the low end of the colonial social ladder of worth, salaries, and the right to life, one moved to a more symbolic form of violence, with the south of the country quasi-racialized as less valuable than the urban coastal areas around Tunis and the Sahel in contemporary Tunisia. In a polity that reached independence more than six decades ago, one can witness the perpetuation of a north-south divide that dates back to the colonial times; but a historical reading of racialized brutality can help us recognize a distinct tradition of activism, in particular trade union activism around the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) and protests in the southern part of the country, such as the one that led to the ousting of dictator Ben Ali in 2011. Through a discussion of diachronic forms of racialization, the article suggests that Giorgio Agamben's focus on juridical issues of exception is partly misleading, for many forms of exception arise outside of the realm of emergency.

You do not currently have access to this content.