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Module 1.Our shared history: North's african presence in Europe and european presence in North Africa

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This unit is meant to underline how Europe and the Maghreb performed – on the background of a shared history – a complex relation, marked by dramatic moments of friction, originated from communication asymmetries, missing crucial occasions of exchange, mutual knowledge and cooperation.

The most extreme distortion of such a relation was represented by colonization, which has been followed by a decolonization process resulting in a necessary and clean cut.
On the other side, recent efforts in order to keep memory alive and to build up an equal and permanent dialogue are the milestone of new forms of relation, based on both the acknowledgment of the “other” and the joint management of cultural, social, and economic elements that can contribute to the construction of a new way of conceiving and living the Mediterranean area.

The objective is to make the participants aware of the different historical and theoretical phases of the complex relation between Europe and North Africa in order to facilitate their understanding of present events. Thanks to this module, participants should be able to identify key facts in their socio-political context and in a cause-effect dynamic. The module aims to focus on the mutual influences that have been identified by both sides of the Mediterranean in a reciprocal relation, despite of all the difficulties and the incomprehension of the construction of a common memory.
The structure of the module would appear as follows:

1. History of the european presence in North Africa
1.1. Definition of the main concepts

  • Who’s “the other”?

1.2. The European community in North Africa

  • The Spanish of Morocco
  • The Spanish of Algeria
  • The Italians of Tunis, a detailed example

2. From SIDI Ferrouch to Barcelona: Asymmetries and missed occasions of a shared History
In this part we will consider five different topics: colonization, nationalism, decolonization, the problem of memory, Mediterranean region issues.

2.1. Colonisation: domination, expropriation

  • Introduction: Colonization is mainly a relation of domination, not only based on a territorial expropriation, but also on culture and history alienation, together with colonized people identify alienation.
  • Examples:
    • Assimilation in Algeria
    • Lyautey and the French Protectorate in Morocco
    • The Treaty of Bardo in Tunisia
    • Colonial hybridism

2.2. Nationalism:  creation and establishment of the national identity

  • Introduction: Nationalism is a complex phenomenon that originated from opposition against colonial domination, but that, at the same time, was based upon European and rationalist procedures of nation-building.
  • Examples:
    • The experience of L’Etolie Nord-Africaine
    • The reflections on State and nation by young Ferhat Abbas
    • The Arabicity and the “question berbère”
    • The Néo-Destour

2.3. Decolonization: tearing to sew up

  • Introduction: Decolonization and violence on both sides represented a fateful breakthrough. The new independent states have been built without and against leadership and even those people who symbolized overseas colonial presence.
  • Examples:
    • May 8, 1945, Sétif
    • The coming back of Habib Bourguiba and Mohammed V
    • Violent separation:  the pieds-noirs leave Algeria; Italian exodus from Libya

2.4. Memories of conflicts and conflicts of memories

  • Introduction:  Colonial experience historiography and memory have always been the objects of a feud between partisans of revisionism and those for whom keeping the memory alive, in order not to forget, is of the most high importance. The attempts of institutional rehabilitation of colonialism are faced with the efforts of all those who work for truth reconstruction, even in its darkest sides. The debate continues, often biased by politics, in Europe and in the Maghreb as well.
  • Examples:
    • Colonialism and revisionism
    • Souvenirs from Algerian war
    • The Italian-Libyan dispute

2.5. Mediterranean Agora

  • Introduction: Maghreb and Europe share the common area of the Mediterranean. The Barcelona Pact in 1995 provided a scheme of an economic integration enforced by the promotion of similar values and principles in the name development as a common goal. More than ten years later, those agreements reveal the limits of Eurocentrism.

Beyond institutional framework, intellectuals, artists and common people are pursuing another form of integration, real and active, matching mobility and migration.

  • Examples:
    • Barcelona mirage
    • Beyond the institutions: crossing the shores and opening dialogue

3. Bibliography



  • To understand the key elements of complex concepts such as colonisation, decolonisation, nationalism, memory conflicts
  • To be able to link historical processes with their visible consequences on today’s society
  • To collect enough tools to be able to understand future relationships between Europe and North Africa
  • To look at oneself experience as inserted and influenced by this shared path
  • To be able to use the given elements as tools for critical analysis



  • Samples of the iconography of the times are given in order to better understand “l’air du temps” and focus on the different perception of “the other” through time. They represent a support for the theories enounced. The images have to follow the text.
  • Extracts of texts from scholars are provided in order to give solid roots to the main thoughts of this unit and to introduce controversial opinions. A bibliography has been included in order to get a deeper knowledge of subjects studied.