Contesting the post-revolution city: Popular urbanism, participation, and the local state in Tunisia

Lana Salman (Harvard University)

A little over a decade after the Arab revolution, how have marginalized Tunisians claimed political space, at what level, and to which ends? What do these experiences of claiming political space show about democratic politics beyond the conventional procedural dimensions? And what, if anything, could these experiences add to our understanding of the present? In this talk, I argue that since 2011 poor Tunisians have used municipalities to make various claims on the proximate state, demonstrating that democratizing politics operates in and through urban space, and at the local level. Despite scripted procedures of participation, this spatial and scalar production of claims-makings takes shape neither exclusively within local level institutions, nor solely through exogenous pressure from the street. Putting in conversation the literature on protest politics and the urban studies literature on popular urbanism, I show how the struggle for more just cities turns dissent into daily practice and extends the legacy of the 2011 revolutions without romanticizing Tunisia neither as a success nor failure of the 2011 uprisings.