Du Bois in North Africa: Understanding anti-Black Racism through the Global Color Line

Mabrouka M'Barek, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Since the declarations in February 2023 of President Kais Saïed, calling for the control of sub-Saharan migration, Tunisia has experienced a rise in anti-black racism. Influenced by a hegemonic liberal reading of racism, Tunisian political opposition and civil society consider Saïed a "fascist" and point the finger at fellow “racist” Tunisians, insisting on the need to redefine a more inclusive Tunisian identity. If the issue of anti-back racism boils down to the nature of Tunisians and the fascist tendency of one man, then why are Tunisians racialized in imperial centers? Why are Tunisia and Libya recipients of police and border control training organized and financed by the E.U. and the U.S.? Why did Saïed's statements take place following the visit of Italy’s Prime Minister? This essay proposes to draw from W.E.B. Du Bois's theory of the global color line, to illuminate the global/local dialectical functioning of race and racism between former colonies and empires, thus offering an understanding of racism in the historically linked region of North Africa to its former European colonizers. Challenging the analysis of racism bounded by nation-states, this essay argues that through a Du Boisian lens, we can connect Tunisia and Libya as sites where Europe and U.S. allies operate to maintain borders and control racialized populations in the periphery.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 57. Traversing the 'Global Color Line:' The Politics of Race and Caste in Search of Freedom