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Domenica Preysing offers a critical reading of “transitional justice” that focuses on political dynamics in post-revolutionary Tunisia, from the ouster of president Ben Ali in January 2011 until the adoption of transitional justice bill in December 2013. She explores the role, structure and characteristics of evolving transitional justice policy discourse to provide a better understanding of how, by who, and to what effect the policy label “transitional justice” is progressively filled with meaning. She shows that conflicting interpretations of both the past and the present have been both deeply embedded in and an expression of the dynamic context of domestic political transformation, as old and new elites struggle over the political identity and direction of post-Ben Ali Tunisia.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

0. Introduction

In December 2010, a desperate young Tunisian man set himself on fire in front of the municipality of Sidi Bouzid. This act, which was widely understood as an act of protest against the regime, inspired Tunisians from all walks of life to take to the streets and claim their rights as encapsulated in the slogan “work, freedom and dignity”. It signified the key driver in mobilising the public against the Ben Ali regime: The systematic denial of ‘dignity’. In addition to improved and equitable employment opportunities, better living conditions and an end to corruption, protesters called for greater political freedoms and for an end to impunity for human rights abuse (cf. e.g. Harders 2011, p. 13). The wave of public protests across the country culminated in the surprise departure of president Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14th, 2011.
Domenica Preysing

State of research

Frontmatter

1. ‘Transitional Justice’ discourse in transition

The past two decades have seen a veritable boom in international ‘transitional justice’ practices, advocacy and academic research. At the same time, the conceptual contents of ‘transitional justice’ have undergone important changes as the following pages show – without, however, arriving at a single fixed meaning or theory. More recently, awareness of inbuilt conceptual tensions within the fast growing field of ‘transitional justice’ has given rise to more critical readings of ‘transitional justice’ in the political sciences. Increasingly, these approach ‘transitional justice’ from a discursive perspective.
Domenica Preysing

2. Theoretical framework and methodology

Many political scientists have begun “to take ideas and discourse seriously” in order to fill gaps in realist conceptions of institutions and policy in positivist scholarship that are ill-equipped to analyse change processes of the kind I observe in Tunisia since the revolution. Following this discursive turn in political science, my research design takes a political discourse theoretical approach to the ‘transitional justice’ policy process in Tunisia in order to investigate how transitional justice discourse is produced and how it functions in relation to the politics of transition.
Domenica Preysing

3. Methods and proceeding: From discourse theory to discourse analysis

As argued in the previous chapter, political discourse theory provides strong conceptual guidance for my discourse analytical endeavour. At the same time, scholarship provides little direction concerning the concrete application of political discourse theory to empirical cases. In fact, there have been “call(s) for methodological courage” to address this perceived weakness (Paul 2009; Wagenaar 2011, p. 155). Instead, political discourse theorists invite researchers “to articulate their concepts in each particular enactment of concrete research” (Howarth, Norval & Stavrakakis 2000, p. 7, original emphasis) by proceeding in a heuristic manner. The following section sets out how I have gone about my particular enactment of research. Following introductory remarks on the tenets of interpretative policy analysis, I describe my proceeding and the applied research methods along with their limitations.
Domenica Preysing

4. Context: A brief chronology of political transition

Tunisia’s political journey since the ouster of president Ben Ali has taken a decidedly democratic direction. Nudged on by constant public pressure, progress at establishing a legitimate and recognisably democratic political system has been impressive, despite deep periodic crisis. Still, it goes without saying that Tunisia’s political transition during the period of research (from 2011 until 2013) has been a highly divisive and contested process on a socio-political and normative level – a process that has been intimately tied to the question of how to deal with the past.
Domenica Preysing

Findings

Frontmatter

5. Transitional justice in political transition

The first part of this study has provided the theoretical and methodological grounding as well as an overview of the system of repression on the eve of the revolution and of the dynamic post-revolutionary political context, in which to situate transitional justice discourse formation in Tunisia. Part and parcel of the political transition process in Tunisia has been the issue complex of how to deal with the country’s past with a look to the future. Early on into the transition this problematic became encapsulated in the term ‘transitional justice’ in its literal French or Arabic translation.
Domenica Preysing

6. Lustration: The discursive struggle over political exclusion

Since the ouster of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, the issue of lustration has clearly been the most contested transitional justice dilemma as Tunisia’s political leaders struggled to maintain institutional stability while also breaking with the repressive legacy of its former regime. In particular, the issue of how to deal with the scores of Tunisians who have belonged to the single state party under Ben Ali, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), has dogged the transition from the start. Their political exclusion has been proposed and most hotly debated within the context of electoral legislation.
Domenica Preysing

7. Reparations: The discursive struggle for recognition

The discourse strand on ‘reparations’, an intense discursive struggle over the formal recognition of the status of victim of the former regime, already emerged in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. Political contestation over the notion of ‘victimhood’ crystallises in the public debate on the entitlements that may or may not derive from occupying the status of victim, as the following in-depth text analysis of this evolving policy discourse strand as part of the formation of the broader ‘transitional justice’ discourse in Tunisia shows.
Domenica Preysing

8. Conclusion: Synthesis of Findings and Implications

The study was set out to explore the concept of ‘transitional justice’ and has analysed the emergence and evolution of elite-level transitional justice policy discourse in the context of political transition in post-revolutionary Tunisia, from the revolution in January 2011 until the adoption of the law establishing transitional justice in December 2013. To gain a better understanding of how emerging transitional justice policy is constituted in the form of conflicting discourses, the study has analysed the dynamic role, structure and characteristics of evolving ‘transitional justice’ policy discourse from a post-structuralist political discourse theoretical perspective.
Domenica Preysing

Backmatter

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