[P5147] Reconsidering Tunisia: Revolutionary and Post Revolutionary Politics, Society, and Religion

Created by Daniel Zisenwine
Sunday, 11/18/18 8:30am


Reconsidering Tunisia: Revolutionary and Post Revolutionary Politics, Society, and Religion

Widespread perceptions of Tunisia's 2011 revolution and its aftermath consider the country to be a "success", certainly in comparison to other revolutions across the region. That assertion, however valid, ignores many historic and contemporary challenges that overshadow Tunisian politics and society. Tunisia has made impressive strides towards democracy since 2011, but the specter of its authoritarian past remains. The conflict over its religious identity is far from settled. As Tunisia continues to soldier on in its efforts to secure new post revolutionary political and social structures, this panel offers a closer look at events and developments that Tunisia has experienced since the removal of Zayn al-'Abidin Ben 'Ali's authoritarian regime. The panel's nuanced approach to Tunisian politics and society links Tunisia's revolution and post revolutionary developments to many of Tunisia's historical and political paradigms, while raising new questions and themes that break ground for new research. It offers a more sophisticated evaluation of events in a country that remains understudied and often misinterpreted by many, and an opportunity for an advanced conversation about Tunisia in the context of MESA's annual meeting.
The panel's papers offer an array of themes and developments that have influenced Tunisian affairs in recent years. One paper revisits the actual events within the authoritarian regime that led to Ben 'Ali's flight in January 2011. Its argument that Ben 'Ali's abrupt departure to Saudi Arabia was an outcome of an internal coup, and not spurred by a popular uprising raises questions concerning our understanding of the revolution, and explains the resilience of authoritarian tendencies in Tunisia. Another paper addresses the open chasm between secular and religious forces in Tunisian society. That struggle between these ideological groups continues to affect the debate over Tunisia's identity. The paper highlights the emergence of a new conflict between radical Islamists and radical secularists, and discusses the phenomenon of "double extremism" which threatens to complicate Tunisian efforts to offer a model of coexistence between these groups. Moving to another facet of contemporary Tunisia, an additional paper focuses on the growing disenchantment within Tunisian with institutional politics and rising nationwide protests. This study offers alternative readings of Tunisia's transition, and highlights the roots of the growing political mobilizations.
The panel's theme offers, in our opinion, an opportunity to reconsider many prevailing notions about Tunisia, which may be applicable to other settings.


Hist; Pol Science



Francesco Cavatorta

(Universite Laval)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Alessandra Bonci

(Laval University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;