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Rigg, Joshua Eliot (2020) A Resounding No: Contentious Politics in Tunisia 2015-2019. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis considers the organizational, affective, spatial and discursive vectors to contentious politics in Tunisia during the 2015-19 Nidaa-Ennahda coalition government. My research is animated by the puzzle that, in post-revolutionary Tunisia, the ‘no’ (or la) of the 2010-11 Revolution of Dignity continues to resound. Why, in Tunisia, does political refusal endure? What do activists reject and how do they voice their rejection? How might a rejectionist stance be used to engage with Tunisia’s uneven political landscape? What work does political refusal do? And what are its limits? By examining how Tunisian activists articulated their critical ‘no’, and nurtured a rejectionist ethic, I argue that we should neither simply view refusal as a shallow anti-political gesture, nor take it to be the easy way out, inferior to its world-building equivalents (engagement, acceptance, representation, deliberation and saying ‘yes’). Rather, activists articulated their refusals as a form of resistance that also holds world-building potential, interrogating the boundaries of the political and politically acceptable. Drawing on interviews with an array of activists, I examine social movements, repertoires of resistance and activists’ thinking in both the country’s north and south; engaging with both a cohort of university educated, internet-savvy and relatively well-connected Tunis activists, and also marginalized, unemployed and informally employed youth in the country’s south. I argue that while demands, aims and discourses markedly differed across groups there can be discerned a common relation to power and the hegemony that had been constructed around the notion of the country’s liberal ‘transition’. I argue that activists in both the country’s north and south have continued to use ‘no!’ as a strategic and constitutive refusal: negations that allow for a broader movement of affirmation; destructive maneuvers that also construct alternatives.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Charles Tripp
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2021 16:09
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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