Constructing Citizenship: Gender and Changing Discourses in Tunisia

  • Mounira M. Charrad
  • Amina Zarrugh
Part of the Citizenship, Gender and Diversity book series (FEMCIT)


Citizenship means belonging to a community defined in political terms and nation-states have historically constituted the most relevant political community. A matter of inclusion and exclusion, citizenship can be understood as involving rights and obligations as codified in the laws and regulations of a country. It can also be seen in its more symbolic form in terms of how different categories of people in a given political community are represented in public discourse or in culturally significant national texts such as constitutions. This chapter uses a multifaceted conceptualization of citizenship that highlights its several dimensions. We show how different dimensions of “being a citizen” come to the fore in national politics in different political contexts. Taking the example of Tunisia, a small majority Muslim population country that stands out in the Arab world for its long history of legislation relatively favorable to women, we consider two critically important political contexts, postcolonial state formation in the 1950s and democratization in the Arab Spring revolution in 2011. We first show how the first national postcolonial state addressed issues of gendered citizenship in the 1950s in making reforms in rights in family law. We then consider how women themselves debated issues of representation in the drafting of a new constitution following the 2011 revolution. Our analysis demonstrates how gendered the discourse and debates on citizenship have been, regardless of the particular issues at stake.


Civil Society Draft Constitution Foundational Text Islamist Party Tunisian Woman 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mounira M. Charrad
    • 1
  • Amina Zarrugh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Sociology, A1700University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Texas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA

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