Stomping for Tunisia: Liberation, Identity and Dignity in Tunisian Rap Music

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
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This analysis ventures into an examination of the role of hip hop as a medium for youthful resistance, mobilization and empowerment during the Tunisian revolution. As a subculture of resistance that never speaks down to people, hip hop serves as the ultimate tool for young revolutionary artists to reassert their dignity, hidden talent and self-understanding. The lyrics of El Général, Armada Bizerta, Ferid El Extranjero and Mos Anif epitomize the feelings of hopelessness and neglect that were endemic in Tunisian society and that propelled a nationwide rebellion. Bereft of voice in their political life and suffering from social neglect, these youths turned to underground culture to make their voices heard. Beneath the mobilizational and empowering capacities of hip hop, Tunisian rap also provides a terrain for young artists to engage in the debate about national identity, their place in the capitalist-dominated world and how they as youth oracles can mold what they perceive as the ‘true Tunisia’. Post-revolutionary Tunisian rap, rife with patriotic pathos and the potential for mobilization, developed against the backdrop of the rising sway of Islamist movements and the profound national introspection that followed the revolution. This paper sheds light on the rise of religious discourse in Tunisian rap and the evolving ideas of individual and collective dignity as well as on the emergence of counter-discourses and the ways in which they pertain to rappers’ endeavors to define Tunisia.

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