Appel à articles : Special issue “Regimes of Power and of Truth in Tunisia After the Arab Spring”, Middle East Law and Governance — LIMITE : 15/03/2015
Editors : Nadia Marzouki (CNRS Paris), Stéphanie Pouessel (EUI Florence), Hamza Meddeb (EUI Florence)
In light of the chaotic and current situation in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, international observers consider the Tunisian experience to be – four year after the triggering of the “Arab Springs” – the reference model of political change in the region. In spite of assassinations, tensions and conflicts that emerged within and outside of its Parliament, Tunisia managed to free public speech, to create a pluralist political arena and to obtain a democratic constitution adopted by the National Constituent Assembly. This second transitional phase resulted in the upholding of parliamentarian and presidential elections. Glowing reports of the international community and local self-triumph put aside, the Tunisian trajectory should be scrutinized in order to go beyond simplistic or revisionist interpretations of the dynamics at work.
Social science researchers have put themselves to work in order to investigate the diverse political reconstructions at play in Tunisia, whether in the case of the institutionalization of Political Islam through the Ennahda party; the assertion of radical Islam in the public sphere impersonated by the Salafi movement; or again, with the entry of Ben Ali’s former political opponents into the political game – the latter having previously unable to do so as a result of repression, forced exile or imprisonment. However, competition for power does not by itself explain the dynamics that have unfolded within the Tunisian political sphere. Since 2011, the observable political struggle tightly correlates with disputes over the introduction of new regimes of truth in the post-Ben Ali Tunisian societal and political space. Béatrice Hibou’s work1 on the political economy of domination shows the degree to which phrases like “economic miracle” and “consensus” are building-blocks of an economic “truth” and impose “reformism” as a legitimate understanding or problematization of politics (P. Bourdieu).
While observers’ attention has been driven to the Islamist-Secularist divide, other conflictual takes on history, geography and society have also been at play in the Tunisian struggle for power. Politics’ bipolarization has driven rival discourses and rival truths. Is it in this mindset that some of the secular elites condemned the ‘Brotherhoodization’ of Tunisia, while the
‘Tunizification of the Brothers’ lay as a prior requirement to their integration in the political arena. Condemnations of such type should not be reduced to basic attempts at discrediting political opponents, but rather reflect the use of discourse as a genuine empowering instrument of ‘enunciation’. This “tool” enables self-declared guardians of Tunisian authenticity to present themselves as the sole rightful representatives of ‘Tunisianity’ while ignoring the numerous branches and appropriations of the reformist tradition, the Destourian heritage and the Bourguibist values. Opposing Islam and Tunisian authenticity testifies to the dichotomous perceptions of politics, around “good” social movements (women, the ‘Westernized’ youth, urban elites, globalized artists, etc.) on the one hand, and “bad” challengers (Salafi, youth prone to radicalization, etc.) on the other2. Stereotypes of Islam (and of its derivatives) are not the monopoly of the “West”: they emerge from the “Arab world” itself, from a francophone and francophile minority whose aspirations contrast with those of the majority. To the regime’s fall is hence tied a struggle for meaning, one that is inseparable from the struggle for power. This struggle is taking place in Tunisia. It has divided the country along multiple lines that oppose business elites to the “people”; the upper class and urban elites to the rural “inland” regions; the North to the South; that opposes Political Islam to Tunisianity; the national to the diaspora, etc.
This special issue will examine the relationship between an emerging political sphere and new regimes of truth. It will bring together researchers from Tunisia, Europe as well as from North America to conceive of knowledge and power’s relationship in today’s Tunisia, while leaving aside those multiple dichotomies. Should it be through qualitative research, fieldwork or ethnographic research, the aim is to uncover overlooked or marginalized interrogations, realities or actors that are nonetheless essential to a fine-grained scientific understanding of the Tunisian political sphere. Research topics such as Bourguiba’s legacy within Islamist activists, street performers, cyber- activities, the artistic or cultural creativity of young Salafis, the new political elites emerging from the diaspora, the terms under which the Ennahda party takes root at the local level, or again, professionalization of political elites and of labor unionists, are all interesting approaches to the understanding of Tunisia’s political dynamics that avoid the pitfalls of simplistic and counterproductive dichotomies.
Abstracts should not exceed 300 words and should be sent by March 15th 2015 to the email addresses below. Selected articles will appear in the special issue of the Middle East Journal for Law and Governance. They will be submitted to a peer-reviewing process.
1 Béatrice Hibou, La force de l’obéissance. Economie politique de la répression en Tunisie, Paris, La découverte, 2006 et “Le réformisme, grand récit politique de la Tunisie contemporaine”, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, n°56-4 bis, 2009/5.
2 Michael Béchir Ayari et Vincent Geisser, Renaissances arabes, sept clés sur des révolutions en marche, Paris, L’Atalier, 2011.