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Youth and Revolution in Tunisia

Youth and Revolution in Tunisia

Alcinda Honwana


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The uprising in Tunisia has come to be seen as the first true revolution of the twenty-first century, one that kick-started the series of upheavals across the region now known as the Arab Spring. In this remarkable work, Alcinda Honwana goes beyond superficial accounts of what occurred to explore the defining role of the country's youth, and in particular the cyber activist. Drawing on fresh testimony from those who shaped events, the book describes in detail the experiences of young activists through the 29 days of the revolution and the challenges they encountered after the fall of the regime and the dismantling of the ruling party. Now, as old and newly established political forces are moving into the political void created by Ben Ali's departure, tensions between the older and younger generations are sharpening. An essential account of an event that has inspired the world, and its potential repercussions for the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
'Alcinda Honwana's study of the Tunisian revolution is remarkable for its extensive use of the views of Tunisia's youth about the roles they played and the marginalisation they feel over the events of 2010 and 2011. Her book gives us a rare insight into the way in which the downfall of the Ben Ali regime was encompassed and what has happened to the aspirations of those most immediately involved. As such it is an invaluable addition to our knowledge of the wider revolution in the Arab world today.' George Joffé, Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Cambridge 'Alcinda's book is an excellent analysis of the youth's contribution in the Tunisian revolution. This comes as no surprise as Alcinda was able to build excellent relations with the youth who spoke with her openly about their role in the revolution as well as their hopes about the future.' Hakim Ben Hammouda, special advisor to the president of the African Development Bank and former chief economist and sirector of the Trade, Finance and Economic Development Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa 'A uniquely insightful study on how a revolutionary process in the Arab world began.' George Joffé, University of Cambridge
Alcinda Honwana is visiting professor of anthropology and international development at the Open University (UK). She was chair in international development at the Open University and taught anthropology at the University Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, University of Cape Town and the New School in New York. She was also programme director at the Social Science Research Council in New York. Honwana has written extensively on the links between political conflict and culture and on the impact of violent conflict on children and youth, conducting research in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Colombia and Sri Lanka. Her latest work has been on youth transitions and social change in Africa, focusing on Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. Alcinda Honwana's latest publications include: The Time of Youth: Work, social change, and politics in Africa, 2012; Child Soldiers in Africa, 2006; and Makers and Breakers: Children and youth in postcolonial Africa, 2005 (co-edited). She was awarded the prestigious Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity in the Netherlands in 2008.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover Front cover
About the author iv
Title v
Copyright vi
Contents vii
Acknowledgements ix
Political parties and associations xii
Map of Tunisia xv
Introduction 1
First encounters 11
Encounters of occupation, resistance and liberation 15
The scope of the book 17
1 Disconnections 21
Unequal regional development and massive unemployment 21
Corruption and nepotism 28
Political repression and lack of civil liberties 32
Modernisation and women’s rights 35
Anti-Islamism and the quest for religious identity 43
Conclusions 47
2 Mobilisation 48
Cyber activists 48
Unemployed university graduates 59
Civil society 66
Political parties 68
Conclusions 69
3 Revolution 71
Twenty-nine days of protests 72
Jasmine, Facebook or Tunisian revolution? 79
The revolution that wasn’t? 81
Social movements and ‘new politics’ 83
Conclusions 90
4 Transition 92
The new political landscape 93
The transitional coalition government 99
Youth and the transition 105
Youth’s disengagement from formal politics 112
Youth’s civic engagement 115
Conclusions 120
5 Elections 122
Low voter registration 123
Youth voter education initiatives 128
The political campaign 132
Election day 135
Election results 137
Conclusions 142
6 New government, new constitution 144
The National Constituent Assembly: mandates and action plans 145
Political tensions and weak performance of the troika government 148
Fractured and fragile political opposition 156
Ennahdha, the troika and the future of Tunisia 159
Conclusions 166
7 Women’s rights 167
Sharia and women’s rights 168
The feminist movement in Tunisia 170
Women’s rights and the secularism versus Islamism debate 175
Women’s right to education, employment and self-determination 186
Conclusions 191
Conclusion 192
Youth and new political culture? 192
Achievements and limitations of the Tunisian revolutionary movement 197
Afterword 203
Notes 207
Introduction 207
1 Disconnections 208
2 Mobilisation 211
3 Revolution 212
4 Transition 214
5 Elections 218
6 New government 221
7 Women’s rights 225
Conclusion 226
Afterword 226
References 228
Index 236