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Resources and Appropriations: Back to the Jerid Oases (Tunisia) after the Revolution

Art. (2015)

Vincent Battesti

This article has been already published in French in Études rurales journal in 2013.
Resources and appropriations: Return, after the revolution, to the oases of Jerid (Tunisia)
English version:
ISBN: 9782713223983
DOI: 10.4000/etudesrurales.9954
Online version:
PDF File:

Cairn publishing house (which publishes a number of journals in social sciences, including Études rurales) recently committed, with the support of the Centre national du livre (CNL), to the development of an international version of its site. This new platform is made for non-French-spoken researchers and readers: The version of Études rurales published on Cairn international is available at In addition, the Études rurales journal has been selected by the CNL to select and translate articles in English. This journal chose this article: Resources and appropriations: Return, after the revolution, to the oases of Jerid (Tunisia) to be translated into English.

Edit: In fact, I will consider this version as my translation work: the translation offered by “professionals”, shamefully, did no better than what does Google translate. I had to not only revise everything, but rewrite in plain English.

In the Jerid region of southwestern Tunisia, the dynamics governing the appropriation of resources vary depending on the type of resource. While it has yet to gain control of genes, the state has appropriated and secured control of key natural resources such as water and land. In the Jerid region, agriculture is concentrated in oasis areas (palm groves) forming unique ecosystems. Based on a field study conducted since the 2011 revolution in an area already examined prior to the revolution, this paper highlights the current dynamics at work in the region and provides a basis for rethinking the concept of “appropriation.” It is important to emphasize that appropriation is not simply a matter of appropriating material resources but that it also concerns the appropriation of uses, practices, and ways of relating to the world. This paper suggests that skills or competences such as these are more likely to be found among local farmers than among agricultural policy makers and bureaucrats, i.e., the official bearers of agronomic knowledge, power, and legitimacy.

Tozeur Palm grove, Jerid, Tunisia. August 6th, 2011.
© Vincent Battesti

 The first lines:

Resources have a history: it is “written” by social groups that de ne certain things as “resources.”

In the small Jerid oasis region of southwestern Tunisia, whose desert environment is unfavorable to human settlement, the definition of these resources and their appropriations is at the heart of contemporary concerns. However, we will see that these appropriations vary according to type of resource, social group, and methods of appropriation.

To explore the forms appropriation takes, we will take the liberty of simplifying the social forces at play, reducing them here to their two principal actors, namely local society and the authorities, whether colonial or national.

This paper highlights three natural resources that figure among the limiting and decisive factors of life in the oasis: water, land, and plant material. As we will see, the assessment is mixed. Although the state’s local annexation takes a largely classic form overall, especially in the context of a highly centralized and interventionist state, it is not imposed on all of the resources and not always in an exemplary manner, except perhaps for water, which was identified early on as the lever necessary for controlling these oasis spaces (Battesti 2012).

In expanding the term “resource” to include the notion of “socioecological resource,” we deconstruct the meaning of “appropriation” somewhat, which is then no longer solely the work of dominant actors on the local scene.

After briefly introducing the notion of “socioecological resource” as well as the oases and palm groves of the Jerid, we focus specifically on water, land, and genes to illuminate different ways of “appropriating” resources.

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Vincent Battesti , "Resources and Appropriations: Back to the Jerid Oases (Tunisia) after the Revolution " (online), Anthropoasis |, page published 20 May 2015 (consulted 21 May 2024), available on: