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Revolutionary Movements, Civil Society, and Advocacy

Session VII-14, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, December 3 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • The literature on civil society advocacy has been multiplying (Berry2001; Dalrymple2004; Ezell2006; Hudson 2002; Leroux and Goerdel2009; Boris and Steurle 2006; Schmidet al. 2008). However, most of the research on civil society advocacy has focused on Western democracies (Guo and Zhang 2014). In the case of Tunisia, the limited research on Civil Society Institutions (CSIs) has focused on the role CSIs played in the process of political change (moving from an authoritarian regime to a democracy), but not on the role of CSIs in the policy making process taking place within the parliament. During Tunisia’s democratic transition, Civil Society Institutions, such as unions, human rights organizations, and other nonprofit organizations, played an essential role in a successful and smooth transition to democracy. However, during legislative deliberations, it was clear that legislators wanted a bigger role for CSIs in the policy making process. Previous research shows that Tunisian legislators are willing to be lobbied and they trust CSIs, yet CSIs are reluctant to play an active role in legislative advocacy. This project examines factors affecting CSIs legislative advocacy efforts in Tunisia. Based on eight in-depth qualitative interviews with CSI leaders engaged in legislative advocacy and eighty-three in person surveys conducted with representatives of civil society institutions, this project examines the impact of factors such as CSIs’ financial resources, access to legislators, perceptions of legislators’ interest in advocacy, and laws governing CSIs hinder or encourage CSIs legislative advocacy efforts.
  • Political socialization in Tunisia over the past decade has been radically transformed by the democratic transition. Referring to the processes by which individuals solidify their political beliefs, values, and behaviors, political socialization occurs most importantly during youth and the entry into adulthood and is often based on microlevel interactions and a degree of passive reception. In transitions out of authoritarianism, however, political socialization into democracy benefits not from intergenerational transmission but rather other dynamics related to political context and transformed modes of participation. In Tunisia, 10 years since the revolution and undergoing fragile democratic transition, what factors contribute to political socialization into democracy? And what is the nature of democratic socialization among youth? Taking voting patterns as indicators, the low rates of youth voter turnout are often cited as evidence of faltering democratic consolidation. However, closer inspection of voting breakdown during the 2019 presidential election indicates the emergence of two distinct youth political cohorts: Generation Y, the cohort of 2011 activists, who participated in higher percentages and with more diverse candidate preferences, and Generation Z, the post-Ben Ali cohort, who voted massively for non-traditional candidate Kaïs Saied. These patterns indicate differences in political preferences and perhaps even values at the cohort level. Assessing the process of political socialization among these two cohorts of Tunisian youth can shed important light on these differences in political behaviors. Drawing on evidence gathered in early 2021 through 12 focus groups discussions and semi-structured interviews with over 120 youth in six municipalities in Tunisia, and using a generation approach that considers how shared location in a historical-social reality influences collective interpretations and practices, the paper demonstrates that two different processes of political socialization are taking place. For Generation Y, political socialization is marked by processes of “learning-by doing” through participation in civil society and social movements that themselves have experimented with democratic governance and participatory politics. By contrast, Generation Z has neither been socialized through typical socializing agents nor through participation in a defining historical-social event. Rather, political socialization of Tunisia’s youngest adults reflects the impact of deep economic malaise on the production of various forms of exclusion and collectively undermined faith in the project of democracy. In so doing, the paper contributes to theories of political socialization and the process of democratic learning in post-authoritarian contexts, and provides one of the first empirical studies of these processes in the Middle East region.
  • Turkey is deemed to be one of the showcases for the closing of the civic space and systematic attacks on human rights norms that is being experienced on the global scale. Within this context, the domestic human rights organizations (HROs) have been targeted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government especially more severely since the failed coup attempt of 2016. While scholarly attention has been paid to questioning of the legitimacy and the effectiveness of human rights organizations, activism and norms by some academics as well as activists alongside state leaders, how has this new environment impacted the conceptualization of human rights of civil society actors and organizations has not been subject of inquiry. This paper aims to map out the ways in which human rights civil society organizations’ discourse, organization and activities have been shaped during the AKP rule. It draws on the findings of a project focusing on nine HROs with differing world views and social bases reflecting ideological, religious and ethnic cleavages in Turkey, involving 60 in-depth interviews with administrators and 72 surveys with members from Human Rights Association (İHD), The Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for the Oppressed (MAZLUMDER), Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Citizens' Assembly, Amnesty International Turkey Branch, Association for Justice Defenders (ASDER), Human Rights Joint Platform (İHOP) and Right Initiative Association. One the most important findings of the project is that HRO’s accept different sources and justifications for human rights based on secular versus religious, left and right wing ideological leanings, however, there is wide level of agreement on human rights conceptualization as given at birth, universal, comprehensive and inclusive. Knowledge of human rights theory, perceptions of the West, definitions of the concept of the state and engagement with international human rights networks are also factors that account for the differences in the conceptualization of human rights among different organizations. The degree to which the HRO’s have been concerned with human rights violations against individuals or sections of society with different worldviews have increased over the course of the human rights movement’s history as cross-ideological cooperation since the late 1990’s produced trust among the HROs. However, there have been splits within certain HROs due to differences in ideology, interpretations of religious beliefs and ethnic identity paralleling the transformations of ideological and political discourses and practices of the Turkish state during AKP’s rule.
  • Inspired by Gramsci’s seminal work on the subaltern – taken back to its class dimension- and based on recent and forthcoming fieldwork with Iraqi activists, this paper is looking at the emergence of independent workers as socio-political actors in the different waves of the Iraqi Uprising, from October 2019 onwards. My main argument is that, as ‘street politics’ and ‘spontaneous aggregation’ played a pivotal role in the protest movements, the role played by new form of social and political resistance needs further and deeper investigation. So far, readings and analyses of the ‘October Revolution’ in Iraq have stressed the importance of well-established political groups, including armed militias, resorting mainly to the lens of sectarianism to explain the revolt and its supposed weakness. Without negating the importance of such groups on the Iraqi scenario, this paper aims at shedding light on newly established groupings, created by the Uprising itself, which are trying to challenge the political and social order as a whole. In particular, I will focus on the Workers against Sectarianism (‘Ummal didda al-ta’ifiyya) leftist group, established in Tahrir Square in October 2019, and active ever since. Gramsci’s writings -especially the ‘Southern Question’- can help illuminate the potential of such groups in both offering a radical political alternative, and in bridging the gap with social classes they claim to represent.