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Contested Politics in Tunisia
  • Edwige Fortier, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
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Book description

Several thousand new civil society organisations were legally established in Tunisia following the 2010–11 uprising that forced the long-serving dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, from office. These organisations had different visions for a new Tunisia, and divisive issues such as the status of women, homosexuality, and human rights became highly contested. For some actors, the transition from authoritarian rule allowed them to have a strong voice that was previously muted under the former regimes. For others, the conflicts that emerged between the different groups brought new repressions and exclusions – this time not from the regime, but from 'civil society'. Vulnerable populations and the organisations working with them soon found themselves operating on uncertain terrain, where providing support to marginalised and routinely criminalised communities brought unexpected challenges. Here, Edwige Fortier explores this remarkable period of transformation and the effects of opening up public space in this way.


'Fortier's book is an important contribution to our understanding of what happens to civil society dynamics when a dictator falls and pluralistic politics is introduced. This compelling study of post-uprising Tunisia provides the opportunity to examine the tumultuous relationships, conflicts and debates that characterize post-authoritarian civil society activism.'

Francesco Cavatorta - Université Laval, Canada

'This study establishes the falsity of the neoliberal doxa’s view of ‘civil society’ as homogeneously dedicated to ‘good governance’. Through the litmus tests of three different NGO standpoints - human rights, sexual freedom, and faith - Edwige Fortier effectively shows how only a disparate and conflictive civil society can be the hallmark of democracy.'

Gilbert Achcar - School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and author of The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising

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