Representations of deprivation, authority and the city : a discourse analysis approach to an aspect of housing policy in North Africa
In Tunisia, (North Africa), housing is an issue on the State agenda, as are social inequalities. Both became important in 1990s Tunisia, with social divisions becoming marked as the economy opened up. The present dissertation aims to improve understanding of Tunisian social policy by posing the question of difference, representation and the discursive presence of policy. The study focuses on one aspect of housing provision for the disadvantaged. With respect to multi-occupancy in a downtown area, a coherent problem emerges in planning documents and the media, while other claims and interests disappear from the public domain. The present dissertation attempts to follow how this `disappearance' takes place. Drawing on sociolinguistics and critical discourse analysis, I examine the varying discourses and representations in circulation. The Oukala Project, the clearance of the unsafest multi-occupancy dwellings in the old city or medina of Tunis, depends on a specific construction of the relationship between State and society. I also pay attention to professional cultures and institutional context, crucial to what can be said and what must be left unsaid. A rupture between written word and lifeworld emerges, with the Oukala Project figuring as an ideal and effective solution to a deep rooted problem - within the limits of a neo-patriarchal discursive formation. The representation of issues - and hence their treatment - is thus closely tied to socially created limits placed upon expression and action. In Tunisia, the strongly differentiated linguistic resources available to social agents reinforce these boundaries - and the apparent hegemony of the State. But ultimately, the research also shows the discursive mask of State hegemony to be strongly challenged, by both professionals and the rehoused people. Neo-patriarchy limits expression in the public domain - but challenges can still be expressed through other channels within the system.