Tunisia’s “civic parallelism”

Lessons for Arab democratization

Authored by: Larbi Sadiki

The Routledge Handbook to the Middle East and North African State and States System

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367358877
eBook ISBN: 9780429342486
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter suggests that knowledge must be situated at the centre of explorations of Arab democratization, primarily through the inclusion of subaltern voices. To demonstrate this line of argument, the chapter addresses ongoing democratization in post-2011 Tunisia through a tentative investigation of the country’s parliamentarization. Contra the notion of “Tunisian exceptionalism,” it posits that a “civic parallelism” is at play in the country’s constructivist, open-ended process of democratic learning. The chapter points to learnt skills, values and practices of coalition and consensus-building by various political actors in a blending of formal and informal dynamics and arenas. Specifically, it demonstrates this concept through the experiences of MPs from the Islamist party Ennahda, to explore how formal actors engage in building democracy and the state through the institution of parliament. This examination illustrates how the inclusion of subaltern voices is one way to move beyond narratives of the “Oriental” native requiring the promotion of democracy from without. In so doing, it poses a challenge to the existing politics of democratic knowledge production.

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