PUBLI : Betty Rouland, Veit Bachmann et Kmar Bendana, « The ignorance of dignity : The contagion of populism in Tunisian-European relations », Political Geography, 2023


Dignity ! Tuni­sians call “their” revo­lu­tion Thawrat al-Karama [ثورةالكرامة[, the Revo­lu­tion of Dignity. Often referred to as the “Arab Spring”, the Tuni­sian revo­lu­tion of 2010–2011 quickly spread to other coun­tries in the region and is consi­dered the first proto­type of “post-modern revo­lu­tions” (Badie, 2021). By trans­na­tio­na­li­zing the revolts and giving them world­wide visi­bi­lity, calls for dignity gained the status of a global mobi­li­zing force. Now, twelve years later, the Tuni­sian people’s demand for dignity remains ignored by both Tuni­sian and Euro­pean leaders – despite the latter’s persistent arti­cu­la­tion of support and claim to a part­ner­ship ‘based on shared values, the promo­tion of demo­cracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and social cohe­sion’ (EEAS, 2023).

We criti­cally reflect here upon Tunisia’s poli­tical evolu­tion towards increa­sing autho­ri­ta­ria­nism that, cyni­cally, goes hand in hand with a massive exten­sion of Euro­pean funds to Tunisia. Human dignity plays no role in this coope­ra­tion. Instead, the control of human mobi­lity is the key policy field. EU poli­cies follow the twofold objec­tive of limi­ting migra\u0002tion to Europe and of tapping into Tunisia’s reser­voir of skilled labour for sectors suffe­ring a shor­tage in Europe. In conver­sa­tion with recent poli­tical geogra­phic research on migra­tion mana­ge­ment and right-wing popu­lism in and around Europe (Cobar­ru­bias et al., 2023 ; ˙Is¸leyen & El Qadim, 2023), we explore in this guest edito­rial how human beings are selected as those who are “desired” and those who are a “burden” (Rouland, 2021) in contem­po­rary Tuni­sian-Euro­pean relations.

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