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Movements for Change

How Individuals, Social Media and Al Jazeera Are Changing Pakistan, Egypt and Tunisia

Rauf Arif

This book explores social media as an alternative channel of communication and resistance in Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt, and argues that the term "Arab Spring" limits the scope of acknowledgement for the ongoing online and offline political uprisings in the Muslim World, which started beyond the geographical boundaries of the Middle East. Beginning with an exploration of the pivotal role of Al Jazeera and how it used social media content from protestors to make the uprisings a global conversation, this book takes readers through an overview of creative political protests in each of the three case countries, before delving into an in-depth examination of a specific icon that sparked each revolution in question, and an overview of social movements and the politico-cultural context in each country. In closing, this book offers an understanding on how the new collective memories of nations using social media to protest will affect future generations who are striving to rise against authoritarian regimes, including the Algerian Spring that is ongoing in 2019.

This book can appeal to a wide range of audiences, both inside and outside the academic world. Within academia, courses covering topics such as social media, social movements, comparative politics, Middle Eastern studies and global communication could use this book as a learning tool. In non-academic settings, journalism practitioners could benefit from this book to examine how social media can be an alternate media in the absence of traditional media, and how traditional news media outlets can collaborate with and utilize social media to perform their journalistic duty in oppressive regimes.

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12 Politico-Cultural Context of Tunisia

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12

Politico-Cultural Context of Tunisia

Tunisia, a country with a population of 11.516 million (98% Muslim) is seen and celebrated as the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions that have sparked political activism across the Muslim world since 2010 (CIA, 2019b; Ghannam, 2011; Harb, 2011; Lynch, 2013; Mir, 2011; World Bank, 2018). Known for its liberal policies toward women in contrast to other Arab states, Tunisia gained its independence from France in 1956 (Charrad & Zarrugh, 2014; CIA, 2019b). From its independence until December 2010, two dictators ruled the country and dominated the country’s politics. Habib Bourguiba ruled for 31 years, until he was overthrown by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for 24 years and dominated the country’s politics up until the Jasmine Revolution of 2010 (CIA, 2019b; Fraleigh, 2018; Zayani, 2015).

Located in Northern Africa, Tunisia borders the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya. According to the CIA Factbook (2019b) country profile, in terms of ethnic representation, 98% of Tunisians are Arab. The country’s official language is Arabic, but French is another widely spoken and understood language in Tunisia. Since Tunisia was colonized by France from 1881 to 1956, the French influence on the country’s language, food and culture remains dominant (Mullenbach, n.d.; Zayani, 2015). Unlike other North African and Arab countries, Tunisia has a high literacy rate and a strong middle-class. Neither Islamist ←175 | 176→groups nor political Islam played a significant role in the country’s recent revolution...

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