The Making of a Revolution in Tunisia

In: Middle East Law and Governance
Author: Laryssa Chomiak
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In their search for explanations for the so-called Tunisian paradox under Ben Ali –a country with comparatively high levels of socio-economic development, yet plagued by the absence of a civil society that could push for political liberalization–analysts primarily investigated the gradual co-optation of political institutions and actors. As research and analytical agendas were consumed by the robustness of Ben Ali’s authoritarian state, little attention was paid to the development of informal and extra-institutional political activities that existed even under deepening political repression. In hindsight, many of these informal activities clearly contributed to the December 2010-January 2011 nation-wide campaign, which eventually led to the Arab World’s fi rst bottom-up revolution ousting an unpopular and illegitimate ruler. Th is article will engage two stories about the Tunisian Revolution that later inspired protests and contentious activities across the Middle East and North Africa. First, it will tell a back-story of contentious activities preceding the January 2011 events that surprised observers, scholars and analysts–even those familiar with the Tunisian case. Second, this article will discuss some of most pressing political dynamics that have emerged in the post-revolutionary (and pre-October 2011 election) environment. The concluding section will subsequently identify avenues for short and long-term research on the subject of contestation, resistance, and the construction of a new political order.

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