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Title: The socio-political background of the December 2010 Tunisian uprising and the failure of authoritarian discursive strategies
Author: Ben Rejeb, Abderazak
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 7909
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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Drawing on post-structuralist theories of identity politics, this thesis argues that the grounds of the December 2010 Tunisian uprising are rooted in the long accumulation of the state violence and the regime’s discursive strategies, used to interpret Islam and politics and deny a shared political space for rival identities and discourses. Relying on the regime’s assumptions about the opposition, the EU added yet another dimension of hegemony when they approved the idea that Ben Ali’s gradual political reform was needed in a country threatened by the rise of political Islam. When these discursive strategies failed to conceal the contradictions affecting political Islam and human rights, a non-elite contesting discourse emerged and opened a space for popular resistance. The uprising was a reaction to the material, ideological and discursive practices used by Ben Ali’s regime to forge a hegemonic order of rule, and cover up the state violence. Discourse analysis reveals that Ben Ali’s appropriation of Islam to resolve the political conflict and his discursive distortions on human rights radicalized youth and undermined his political control. His alliances with political elites and media prevented civil society from mediating between state and society and from anticipating the uprising. The EU was suspected of managing the potential security crisis through concessions to Ben Ali’s regime, rather than promoting its stated goals of democracy and human rights. The findings of 106 interviews covering 8 socio-political groups reveal that the vast majority of the opposition articulated a consistent discourse that the new order of Tunisian politics would either bring reform to state values by incorporating a proactive Islamic political thought of social justice and human rights or descend into political violence that would engender state failure. As the sociopolitical factors that led people to revolt against the regime are equally pertinent to Tunisia’s postuprising phase, interviewees displayed a uniform perception that Tunisia is not heading towards democracy, but is back to square one of state violence and political polarisation between the Islamists and the Secularists. They seemed to be wary of a longstanding crisis in the state’s values, suspecting political elites, the ‘deep state’ of reactivating the pre-revolution scenario in which the abuse of state power, stagnant political thought, and legislation were upheld. New rounds of identity conflicts loom large between a state defending its legacy of the French Laïcité model and an emerging Salafi youth who will challenge the former values and attempt to impose their discourse of ‘Islamic awakening’ in order to revive the Caliphate. Yet the presence of their Islamist counterparts in the government and the unknown outcome of other Arab revolutions seem to delay the Salafi associated backlash against both the state security services and the extreme secularists.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Tunisia