1. Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
  2. Veranstaltungen
  3. The Art of Public Speaking (Fan al-Khitaba al-Amma): The Tunisian Public Sphere after 2011
Vortrag, Vortragsreihe

The Art of Public Speaking (Fan al-Khitaba al-Amma): The Tunisian Public Sphere after 2011

HISDEMAB seminar with Charis Boutieri

The dismantling of the police state headed by President Ben Ali in 2011 and the subsequent ratification of the rights of freedom of expression and association marked the end of censorship and silence, which had been the communicative conditions of Tunisian public life since the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1881. The broad institutional transformations that came about in the aftermath of the revolution were reinforced by a plethora of pedagogical undertakings that targeted the Tunisian public. Thus, the emerging civil society benefited from the support of foreign donors to launch training programmes aimed at inculcating the skills of public deliberation among the citizenry.  This talk engages with the unfolding of these programmes as civic trainers navigate the local and historical articulations of liberalism and of democracy. The talk examines the most intensely promoted and widely disseminated civic training programme in post-revolutionary Tunisia: debate training. The talk argues that debate training aims to inculcate liberal glossaries and dispositions for democracy across the social fabric. It places systematic observations on debate training at the intersection of transnational trajectories of international democracy promotion and the legacies of liberalism in pre and post-2011 Tunisia. These observations demonstrate that this international-national nexus constitutes the terrain upon which citizens build and enact norms of democratic civility, which are then contrasted with revolutionary incivility. Thus, debate training is shown to be a highly consequential pedagogical operation that demarcates civil society, and by extension a public sphere, and that constitutes a seminal act in the transition from revolution to democracy. The difficulties debate trainers face in disseminating the conditions of liberal democratic deliberation expose Tunisian liberalism’s pressure points. These pressure points offer a common ground through which to discuss with theories and critiques of the liberal public sphere and their resultant articulation of civility.

Charis Boutieri teaches anthropology at King’s College London, UK. She is the author, among others, of the monograph Learning in Morocco: Language Politics and the Abandoned Educational Dreams (Indiana University Press, 2016) and of “The Democratic Grotesque: Distortion, Liminality, and Dissensus in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia” (Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, 2021). Her current research on the Tunisian public sphere has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust UK (2015) and the British Academy (2021).  


Further Information

Diese Veranstaltung gehört zur Vortragsreihe
Vortragsreihe im akademischen Jahr 22/23
The Historicity of Democracy Seminar