The contentious politics of nationalism and the anti-naturalization campaign in Tunisia, 1932–1933

Christopher Barrie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article asks how, when, and why people came to mobilize en masse in the name of the Tunisian nation against French Protectorate rule. Rather than taking anti-colonial nationalism as an inevitable response to the imposition of colonial rule, the account offered here insists that it is an outcome to be explained. Building on more recent theoretical directions that stress the processual, relational, and eventful dynamics of nationalism, the article shows that nationalism and nationalist mobilization cannot be attributed simply to the workings of nationalist intellectuals, to long-standing grievances, or to larger macro-level transformations. Rather, seeing nationalism as part of struggle and as a domain in which various forms of contentious politics are played out, I show how attention to a particular contentious event in the anti-naturalization campaign can help us to understand how a certain version of the nation becomes salient as a mobilizing rubric for mass-level mobilization and how various forms of contention coalesce to produce nationalist outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-725
Number of pages19
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number4
Early online date2 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • anti-colonial nationalism
  • contentious politics
  • Islam
  • naturalization
  • protest
  • Tunisia


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