No more promises: the social solidary economy and revolutionary demands in Jemna, Tunisia

Authors: Lana Salman*, University of California - Berkeley
Topics: Political Geography, Middle East
Keywords: social solidary economy, land, post-revolution Tunisia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Six years after the onset of the Jasmine Revolution, Tunisia is celebrated as a success story of peaceful ‘transition to democracy’. But facts on the ground contradict this narrative. Social movements have multiplied and are interrupted only by brief periods of relative calm when protestors reach a temporary compromise with the authorities. That eight successive governments in 6 years have been unable to control mounting inflation or create more jobs, a major demand of the uprisings, is also telling. Meanwhile, municipal elections have been rescheduled for the 4th time, casting doubts about the promises of local development. One example stands out. In Qebili, an under-developed region in Southern Tunisia, dwellers have taken development matters into their own hands. They have reclaimed communal ownership of the oasis of Jemna, increasing its productivity multiple folds, and investing the revenues in local development. The cooperative of Jemna has thus far rehabilitated the local clinic, bought an ambulance for the community, and invested in the locality’s school. This paper asks why the social solidary economy model of Jemna remains disconnected from electoral politics at the municipal level, and what this disconnect makes visible about emerging post-revolutionary politics. The paper is part of a larger research project on temporalities of political change in post-revolutionary Tunisia. It builds on 18 months of dissertation fieldwork to unpack the ways in which Tunisians have organized to break a mode of “governing through expectation” by tackling the land question.

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