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El Harka: Perceptions of the Migration-Development Nexus in Post-Revolution Tunis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-505
Number of pages13
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number6
Early online date25 Jun 2014
E-pub ahead of print25 Jun 2014
PublishedAug 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


In the 3 years since the ousting of Tunisia's dictator Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in January 2011, net emigration from Tunisia has doubled, suggesting a link between revolutionary politics and aspirations to emigrate. A large proportion of this emigration has taken the form of a clandestine crossing to Europe, locally called El Harka. This paper explores the complex interactions between the 'migration-development nexus' and revolutionary national politics in the aspirations of Tunisian young men to emigrate in the post-Revolution period. I use the sociologist Albert O. Hirschman's concept of 'Exit-Voice-Loyalty' to come to an understanding of the geographical imaginaries and spatial practices expressed by individual Tunisian men in relation to migration. I present my findings within a typology of 'surplus', 'circulation', and 'engagement' to describe the ways in which the inherent politics of migration are expressed. 'Surplus' emerged as a powerful discourse in post-Revolution Tunis, leading to politically significant notions of migrant identity. 'Circulation' denotes the developmental ideal held in tension with concerns over legality. I argue that the primacy of illegal emigration from Tunisia indicates the dominance of exploitative migration policies. Finally, political 'engagement' in the post-Revolution period is theorised to correlate to disinterest in emigration. The institution of freedom of expression is argued to increase 'loyalty', through privileging 'voice' over 'exit' as a course of action for the discontent.

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