Kerkennah: A Movement of The Precarious Youth Against Extractive Capital

This paper will analyse the mobilisations of the precarious youth of the Tunisian island of Kerkennah. The social movement aimed to secure an income for its members from the multinational company Petrofac, which extracts natural gas from the nearby waters. In March 2011, during the revolutionary upheaval, the precarious youths of the island forced Petrofac to fund a state-managed employment program for about 250 young unemployed. In January 2016, Petrofac thought the time had come to roll back the concessions and stopped financing the scheme. This reignited the movement, which staged a sit in outside the plant blocking access to it. The riot police attacked the sit in on 3 April 2016 but it was forced to leave the island after twelve days of disorders. Petrofac had thus to sit at the negotiating table again and on 23 September 2016 it signed a new agreement granting employment to the protestors. The aim of the paper will be that of understanding the forms of consciousness and collective action of the Tunisian precarious youth five years after the revolution of which it was the protagonist. This will be done through the lenses of recent Marxist theorisations of existential and employment precariousness. More specifically, it will try to explain how the technical changes in the Tunisian “class composition” – and particularly the prominence of its “surplus” fraction – made possible the emergence of a social movement of this kind. The paper will contextualise the events in the historical perspective of neoliberal restructuring and of the more recent evolution of the Tunisian political landscape since the 2011 uprising. The research will be based on qualitative interviews with the participants and on online archival research.


Lorenzo Feltrin . University of Warwick .

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