The 2011 revolts in North Africa and the Middle East, known by the not-so-inclusive moniker “Arab Spring,” brought together Tunisian and Libyan Imazighen (Berbers) in the borderlands of southeastern Tunisia and Western Libya. Whereas some Tunisians and Libyans had long moved through this borderland for trade, work or family visits, others had little direct familiarity with their co-ethnics until the Libyan Civil War, when hundreds of thousands of Libyans took refuge in this region of Tunisia – as many as 10,000 per day at the peak of the crisis.
Katherine E. Hoffman is an associate professor of anthropology at Northwestern. She specializes in the relationship between expressive culture, ethnicity, law and political economy in historical and contemporary North Africa, where she has conducted research for almost 20 years. She is the author of We Share Walls: Language, Land, and Gender in Berber Morocco (Blackwell–Wiley, 2008) and co-editor (with Susan G. Miller) of Berbers and Others: Beyond Tribe and Nation in the Maghrib (Indiana University Press, 2010). Hoffman is completing a book on legal pluralism in Berber customary courts under the French Protectorate of Morocco, called “Mirror of the Soul: Language, Islam, and Law in French Native Policy of Morocco (1912-1956),” and is drafting another from her recent field research in Tunisia on the displacement of Libyans during their civil war, called “Revolution’s Refugees.” She received her PhD from Columbia University.