Associate Professor of Middle East History, Syracuse University.
Affiliated Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies, Syracuse University.
Throughout the anti-colonial struggle, activists from across North Africa articulated common goals and collaborated against French hegemony. In Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba consolidated power through unilateral negotiations with France and against the interests of his pan-Arab peers, he also articulated interest in regional collaborations that he sought to lead. This paper examines the tensions between national projects and supra-national cooperation during the early decades of postcolonial economic development. It focuses on family planning as a complex site of national transformation and intellectual exchange, and neo-colonial dependence. Through participation in what had become a global population movement, states in North Africa acted in sovereign capacities while relying upon foreign assistance largely from Europe and North America. Development aid, doled out to national governments, reinforced the nation-state boundaries of economic transformation and mitigated against regional collaboration. Yet starting in the 1960s, Tunisia hosted the conferences on population and family planning (such as the Colloques de démographie maghrébine), followed by meetings in Oran, Rabat, and Nouakchott, participants articulated a transnational perspective faced with shared problems and structural impediments. In the case of Tunisia where the state embraced its role in the population control movement as an iteration of national particularity and specificity, to distance itself from other Arab or African states in the realm of women’s rights, conversations among academics, policy makers, and feminists subtly dissent from, and add complexity to such hegemonic claims.
Amy Kallander is an associate professor of Middle East history and affiliated faculty with women’s and gender studies at Syracuse University.
Her current research examines the importance of gender and state feminism in projects of authoritarian state building in post-colonial Tunisia. The project situates Tunisia in global contexts through an examination of transnational feminist solidarity, development initiatives surrounding population and family planning, fashion and 1960s youth culture, and conversations about love. She is the author of Women, Gender, and the Palace Households in Ottoman Tunisia as well as articles in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Arab Media & Society, and the Middle East Report Online.