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Title: Contested publics : situating civil society in a post-authoritarian era : the case study of Tunisia, 2011-2013
Author: Fortier, Edwige Aimee
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 9723
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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Periods of sociopolitical transition from authoritarian rule offer renewed expectations for more representative and accountable state institutions, for enhanced pluralism and public participation, and for opportunities for marginalised groups to emerge from the periphery. Several thousand new civil society organisations were legally established in Tunisia following the 2010-2011 uprising that forced a long-serving dictator from office. These organisations had different visions for a new Tunisia, thereby bringing into sharp relief a multiplicity of emerging conflicts. As the hierarchy of priorities was outlined, these contestations entailed a host of inclusions and exclusions from Tunisia's public spaces in which a range of civil society actors and groups jostled to be recognised. This research looks to a remarkable period of transformation for Tunisia during which the euphoria of having brought down a dictator was tempered with the apprehension of what may follow - the "uncertain something else". Within the context of a transition from authoritarian rule, the thesis examines the conflicts that manifested between the different elements of civil society following the uprising in early 2011. It looks to the effects of the opening up of the public space; the sociocultural and socioreligious divisions that emerged, including the rise of associational or social Islam; and the exclusionary nature of consensus in 'liberal' democracies. The research underscores conceptual understandings of civil society that evolved from emphasising the conflicts among these actors to deemphasising them over time as an outcome of the unprecedented legitimacy now afforded to civil society in neoliberal frameworks. The thesis contends that conflict among these actors is neither positive nor negative, but nevertheless is consequential. Conflict serves as a productive tool to expand and maintain agonistic discursive contestation. Moreover, the preservation of a multiplicity of discursive arenas during periods of sociopolitical turmoil can sustain spaces for more democratic and representative institutions to eventually emerge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral