Panel 1C

Authoritarianism and Resistance in the Maghreb

10.45 – 12.45
Chair: Ratiba Hadj-Moussa, University of York

Levitsky and Way and the Evolution of Authoritarian Rule in Algeria

Jonathan Hill, King’s College London

The paper will draw upon Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way’s model for analysing regime transitions to develop an explanation of the failure of Algeria’s democratic turn in the early 1990s and subsequent, swift return to authoritarian rule. The paper will focus on the period from October 1988 to February 1992 which covers the start and end of this experiment. The paper will be structured along the same lines as Levitsky and Way’s original case studies and will move through each of their three dimensions (linkage, leverage and organisational power) in turn, before briefly charting the origins and development of the Benjedid regime. In so doing, the paper will make at least three important and original contributions. It will be the first to use Levitsky and Way’s model to explain the failure of Algeria’s democratic turn at this time. It will highlight key differences between the authoritarian regimes that held power before and after this opening, and thereby cast new light on the origins of the political order that developed over the years leading up to the Arab Spring. And it will add nuance to Levitsky and Way’s model. For while they identify two broad categories of authoritarianism, and trace the origins and development of specific regimes over particular periods, they pay little attention to the differences between a country’s governments that are designated either fully or competitive authoritarian. That is, variations between regimes of the same category within the same country are largely overlooked.

Communities Clashes in Algerian Sahara: The Slow and Difficult Emergence of Political Protests

Ratiba Hadj-Moussa, York University

This paper takes up the recent inter-communities clashes in the Mzab region (Southern Algeria) to analyse their ties with social justice and political demands.  The Mzab region is inhabited by one of the smallest religious and linguistic minority in North Africa, the Ibadi Berbers, and by “Arabs”, constituted by various “Arab groups”. While one can analyse these clashes as the result of the accumulation of hate between the two groups, we propose to see them as the way by which the populations formulate and articulate their demands, as well as forge their opposition to injustice, inequality and predation. We suggest that, along with this formulation, a nascent and still fragile social movement has emerged. It frames itself by using external resources such as the rules of Law and international law, as well as internal popular mobilization trends steeming from areas and groups of the Algerian Sahara and Berber minorities. Finally, through the triple margins (“double” minority group and Saharan periphery), we hope to show the irreversible turning point in Algerian political culture and the still difficult mechanisms to cultural and political recognition

Border Conflicts and Militarisation in the Maghreb and Sahel from the Tuaregs Perspective

Marianne Aringberg Laanatza, Center of Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Sweden

During the French colonialism up to today the Berbers in Sahel, the Tuaregs, who most of them are living in Mali and Niger but also in Algeria, Libya and Chad, have struggled for independence or at least a form of autonomy. Upheavals have taken place frequently during the decades. In the current situation – with ISIS and al-Qaida groups in the Sahel and with all smuggling of drugs and cigarettes etc., in combination with military activities and intervention with foreign troops and advisors supporting the Mali government –  the Tuareg society and future is threatened. The Tuaregs have always been keen on keeping and defending their language and culture, where the women have a strong position. They are discrimated by the governments around Sahel, who show no interest or respect for the Tuaregs as a people. The allocation of financial resources to the Tuareg society from the concerned governments around Sahel, is very limited and unfair. In such a hopeless situation groups of young Tuaeregs were attracted to Gaddafi’s offers of good salaries for serving in his army, and later on their involvement with ISIS and al-Qaida could partly been understood, although the values and principles within the Tuaregs society, not least regarding the position of women, is in total conflict with those of the terrorist movements. The analyses in the paper is based on theories applied within empirical conflict research with the purpose to reach a long term solution for the Tuaregs in Sahel, with focus on the situation in northern Mali.

The Movement of People and Ideas in the Development of Nonviolent Resistance in the Western Sahara

Desiree Shayer, London School of Economics

In popular media, the concepts of migration and political violence have become closely linked through the creation of a frame resting on two assumptions. First, that migration refers to refugee populations moving from global South to global North countries and second, that these populations bring violence from conflict zones into peaceful areas. While this framing is problematic in several ways, this paper will focus on the critique that it ignores the multiplicity of relationships between refugee populations in the global South and non-refugee residents of the global North. In this paper, I will first investigate the ways that the Sahrawi experience challenges the two assumptions of the ‘refugee as violent migrant’ frame. Becoming refugees contributed to sedentarisation, but the flow of ideas and people between the refugee camps and the global North has expanded. I will show that this movement is neither unidirectional nor permanent, and that it bolsters nonviolent resistance within the conflict zone. I will then adopt a critical approach to uncover the ways in which Northern actors and Sahrawi leaders have used their increased mobility to shape Sahrawi policy. Based on fieldwork conducted primarily in the Sahrawi refugee camps in 2016 and 2017, I will conclude that the prioritised movement of some people and some ideas is undermining the development of participatory democratic governance in the refugee camps. This conclusion has implications for our understanding of the complexity of relationships built by refugee populations and the corresponding complexity of those relationships’ impacts.

Tracing the Transformations of the Working Classes Youth in Contemporary Morocco

Meriam Cheikh, University of Edinburgh

In this paper, I will focus on how young female and men respectively engaged in intimate economies and petty crimes have been criminalised in opposite ways throughout the two last decades. Whereas the criminalisation of sex offenses is decreasing we assist to an increase in the criminalisation of precarious young men. I will particularly highlight the cultural dimension of these “illegalisms” using ethnographical and digital (social media, videos, music) data.Firstly, I will focus on the trajectories of women involved in intimate economies in Tangier. Addressing the sexual practices and the norms and values that frame them and putting them in parallel with the economic neoliberal turn and the rise of leisure economies, I will show how these practices are not marginal or “deviant” practices, but are rather part of a prevalent urban juvenile sexual culture that testifies to the ongoing larger process of transformation of the sexual order in Morocco. Secondly, I will introduce the nascent delinquent male figure of tcharmil. Tcharmil refers to a type of thug that embodies a masculine culture that turns the stigma of social disqualification into a source of pride through a strong emphasis on vestimentary fashion and provocative displays of delinquent behaviour (selfies of streetwear-styled young men with sophisticated haircuts giving the finger to police forces or posing with butcher knives in front of loot obtained through theft or assault) and everyday tactics of opposition to the authorities (appropriation of urban spaces, cultural self-assertion, defiance of the police…).