The Already Dead: Temporalities & claims among young unemployed people in Tunisia

Authors: Myriam Amri*, Harvard University
Topics: Africa, Urban Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Capitalism, Tunisia, metaphors, Death, Unemployed, Youth, Anthropology, Time
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Social movements in Tunisia have fissured the narrative of an economically sound country and brought to the spotlight economic struggles especially that of unemployed educated young people. In this paper I am interested in looking at the narratives of these young unemployed educated people, through their recurrent usage of metaphors around deaths, especially that of the repeated idea of being “already dead”, being dead socially, politically, economically though still alive in a physical sense. Both in my ethnographic encounters in urban areas of Tunis or in the media, young people who identify as educated unemployed exhibit a discourse of being dead, not because they are unemployed in the absolute sense but because their labor inadequately reflects their qualifications. Through this vocabulary of death, I believe these unemployed young people reflect their exhaustion from the disconnect between their expectations and what the reality of economic dispossession has brought, but more than that, I wish to argue for a strategic usage of this vocabulary of death, which allows to suspend time. Indeed, by positing their own death, they perform themselves in contrast to the narratives of the revolution, as a re-birth of the nation, or an accelerated time for positive change, and abstract their own individual situation for collective claims to “live again". I hope to show how the entanglements of temporalities and the positioning outside of life allows these young people to make collective claims beyond Tunisia and reflect on their unchanging situation in times of late capitalism.

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