Catastrophizing Politics and Revolutionary Movements: A View from Algeria

Wed January 29th 2020, 12:00 - 1:00pm

Catastrophizing Politics and Revolutionary Movements: A View from Algeria

This talk investigates how a longstanding political and economic crisis has shaped Abdelaziz Bouteflika's rule in Algeria (1999-2019). Serres argues that the crisis led to a form of rule that he calls “governance by catastrophization,” as security apparatuses, economic policies and electoral processes respond to the looming possibility that the country may face a disaster similar to the violent conflict of the 1990s. Nonetheless, this governance by catastrophization was inherently contradictory. While it was essential to authoritarian resilience, it also made the lived experience of millions of Algerians unbearable, helping the population develop a repertoire of contention that could be used against the regime. The tense equilibrium between popular resistance and official domination has shaped the revolutionary movement experienced by the country since February 2019.


Thomas Serres is a specialist of North African and Mediterranean politics and his scholarship focuses on questions of crisis, economic restructuring and authoritarian upgrading. His first book studies the politics of catastrophization in Bouteflika's Algeria. This monograph is entitled Managing the Crisis, Blaming the People: The Suspended Disaster in Bouteflika's Algeria and It was published in March 2019 with Karthala, a leading Francophone publisher for academic works on the Middle East and Africa. He is currently finalizing a translation of the monograph into English. He also recently co-edited the volume North Africa and the Making of Europe: Governance, Institutions, Culture, which was published by Bloomsbury Academic Press in 2018.