Discourses of Domination: Women’s Political Rights, Human Rights Abuses and Strategic Politics of Public Legitimacy in Tunisia
Abstract: The survival of the Tunisian political regime is based around a precarious tension: it must negotiate between strategic practices to consolidate political power and enforce the regime’s dominance, while at the same time generating inclusive policies to engender collective national authority. If the state looks to build an effective body politic, the regime must enforce its political dominance while at the same time generating support from a broad constituency and cultivating a sense of national membership. Using strategic politics of state legitimacy (characterized on one hand by “open” discourses on women’s political rights, and “non-open” discourses on human rights abuses on the other), the Tunisian state has secured the power to vitiate and appropriate the public sphere and its democracy-promoting potential for its own strategic state ambitions. The situation is paradoxical: the Tunisian state requires the collaboration of the public in order to maintain its unquestionable hegemonic power, even though the non-open discourses upon which the state’s legitimacy depends undermines the very idea of a public sphere and an autonomous citizen public. How does the Tunisian regime negotiate the fine line between maintaining social and political control while still sustaining a façade of legitimacy and accountability?
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