Ola Galal

AnthropologyCity University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Award Information

2017 IDRF Program

AnthropologyCity University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Environmental Rights, Marginalization, and the Desired State in Post-Revolutionary Southern Tunisia

On the International Day of the Environment in 2013, dozens of Tunisians gathered in the southern marginalized province of Gabes to demand an end to contamination that has plagued their health and livelihoods for four decades. They held up signs calling for the right to live without pollution and chanted "The people want a clean environment", the same chant template of "al-sha'b yureed" (the people want) used in demonstrations that toppled autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali two years earlier. This project investigates the discourse on the "right to the environment" as it circulates amongst various NGOs, state agencies and officials, and citizens in Tunisia. Zooming in on the case of Gabes, the project examines people's understanding of change, politics, and rights as they intersect with and are informed by the event of the 2010 Revolution on the one hand, and perceptions of and responses to environmental risk that are bound up with their marginalization on the other. It contributes more broadly to our understanding of the state as a historically contingent construct and politics as a site and a practice inseparable from people's everyday concerns. Taking the specificity of the post-revolutionary moment in Tunisia, it aims to question the teleological narrative of the triumphant progress of democratization by bringing to view its fault lines and marginalized subjects.