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Title: The fight for emancipation in Tunisian women's writing, from Ben Ali's rise to power to the eve of the Jasmine uprising
Author: Alba, Sonia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 8291
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 2017
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On 14th January 2011, following unprecedented popular demonstrations, the long-standing president of Tunisia Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to step down and flee his country. The event marked the success of the Tunisian Revolution and inspired similar pro-democracy movements elsewhere in the region, triggering the so-called Arab Spring. A great deal of media and scholarly attention has focused on the role of women during the Revolution itself, yet few studies have considered women’s literary and active engagement prior to the uprising. This study is thus innovative as it focuses specifically on the role that Tunisian women writers played in the years leading to the Revolution. It sheds light on women’s political engagement and resistance to patriarchal oppression and explores the complex ways in which each writer has attempted to deal with those issues – cultural, social and political – most relevant to her. This is, in addition, the first study of Tunisian women’s writing in French to compare and contrast key themes in three different genres (the autobiographical novel, the essay and the blog) within the conceptual framework of so-called ‘counterpublics’. This thesis emphasises the nature of the authors’ contribution to what Nancy Fraser calls a feminist subaltern counterpublic which, over the past twenty years, has consistently worked to challenge dominant patriarchal and authoritative power. Such a counterpublic, it is argued, has simultaneously helped to counter negative collective imagining, as theorized by Robert Asen. This thesis is structured around three chapters, each focusing on a different form of writing and on a number of contemporary writers who have chosen to express themselves in French. The first chapter analyses two autobiographical novels, namely La Retournée (2002) by Fawzia Zouari and Leïla ou la femme de l’aube (2008) by Sonia Chamkhi. The second chapter focuses on two politically engaged essays, Une force qui demeure (2006) by Hélé Béji and Les Arabes, les femmes, la liberté (2007) by Sophie Bessis. The final chapter focuses on the use of new media, namely on the blog A Tunisian Girl (2009 – present) by Lina Ben Mhenni as well as that entitled Nadia from Tunis (2006 – 2014) by an anonymous blogger known as Nadia. The combination of different literary texts, ranging from established to emerging writers, allows this thesis to address the research question from a range of different perspectives, thus contributing to an underexplored area of research within current studies dealing with Tunisian women’s written production in French.
Supervisor: Aissaoui, Rabah ; Jones, Elizabeth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available