Tagarchief: fieldwork

Electoral democracy confirmed: The 2014 Tunisian parliamentary elections


Photo: Touraj Eghtesad

By Touraj Eghtesad Almost four years after the Tunisian Revolution, electoral democracy is becoming a reality in this little country where citizens often feel distant from the process of democratic transition. Meanwhile, much of the European media praises the ‘advent of democracy’ in Tunisia, where a democratic tradition has little consistency so far, as if democracy was a ‘thing’ rather than an ongoing process of checks and balances.

After a first set of elections with hundreds of political parties, Ennahdha (conservative) won and led a coalition government (Troika). Many people trusted that an Islamist party could not become corrupt and that Ennahdha would pursue a whole different trajectory than the Ben Ali regime which long oppressed them. Over the past three years, however, many Tunisians were frustrated that the Troika government did little to stop the growth of Islamist terrorist groups and carried out the same economic policies of the Ben Ali era.

The murder of far-left parliamentary Mohammed Brahmi by Salafist extremists in July 2013 brought one million Tunisians onto the streets . The Troika government, under pressure, promised to step down in favour of a technocratic government after a process of ‘National Dialogue’. This culminated in the vote of a new Constitution, praised as the most progressive in the Arab world, in January 2014.

Conducting my Master’s field research about unemployed graduates’ activism, I managed to witness the constitutional vote in the National Assembly, where politicians of all colours were ecstatic after three years of deliberation and conflict. The next day, a group of young Tunisians of various political belongings argued whether the Constitution was an advancement or not. Nonetheless, they agreed that three years had been wasted in drafting a new Constitution, a reflection of the secular/Islamist debate over Tunisia’s national identity, while none of them actually cared about those issues.

The recent October 26th elections had a smaller turnout than the previous one (about 40% vs. 50% in 2011). This outlines the lack of engagement of Tunisians, especially young voters, with political elites and the new ‘democratic’ regime. ‘I didn’t vote in 2011 because there were many people from the Ben Ali regime on the electoral lists. I only voted this time to balance power between parties. Since every party has a similar programme and all of them are only after power, it is important to avoid that anyone gets a majority’ (Kais, 25 years old).

Many young Tunisians are disillusioned and are unaccustomed to the electoral process. In the past few months, hundreds of NGOs working on ‘democratic transition’ and ‘citizenship’ have mobilized people to vote and teach citizens how to make a conscious electoral decision. This resulted in a clean and fair election, with Nidaa Tounes (liberal) winning almost 40% of the vote. There are two key reasons for Nidaa’s victory. First, this was a sanction vote against the Troika government’s poor performance since October 2011. Many people felt that it failed to accomplish its mandate, as rising insecurity and economic crisis ravaged the country. The CPR party of President Marzouki and Ettakatol both collapsed (from 24 to 5 seats), while Ennhadha lost about 10% of the popular vote. Secondly, Tunisians voted in favour of stability and competence. Tunisians hope that the uncertainty of the Revolution fades away, paving the way for a vibrant national economy. The mismanagement of the Ennhada party and partisan quarrelling in the transition period made people sceptical of the potential for new parties to govern the nation. On October 26th, they chose to elect a party with many members of the old regime in its ranks as a more experienced party that can guarantee a return ‘back to normal’ for the middle classes.

‘I don’t want to go backwards or live in an Islamic state so I voted for Nidaa. They will bring stability back; for us that is especially important to revive the tourist industry’ (Asma, 28 years old). Electoral democracy has become the game for Tunisia’s main political actors, and a two-party system is likely to unfold. For some theorists of democratic transition, two governmental changes through elections means that democracy is consolidated. Many former members of the Ben Ali regime joined Nidaa Tounes at its creation in 2012 by notorious Bourguibist leader Beji Caid Essebsi. Ennahdha, afraid of falling out of parliament altogether like the Islamists in Egypt, have also adopted the rules of procedural democracy. They left power before the elections and are not presenting a candidate for the presidency, instead preferring a consensus candidate.

Now that the elections are over, Nidaa Tounes has yet to name a new government. In the absence of a majority, they must lead a coalition government with the UPL (led by a billionaire and has no clear policy) and the FP (far-left), which seems unlikely, or enter join forces in a government of national unity with Ennahdha who is widely in favour of this. Their priority will be to lead the country out of the economic crisis as Tunisians of all backgrounds have high expectations for change.


SpW afbeelding KarinDoor Karin Harenberg  Voor mijn master scriptie heb ik onderzoek gedaan naar Alternative care-systems in Africa with a focus on Zambia. Toen ik in januari 2014 vertrok naar Lusaka, voor elf weken, was ik nog in de veronderstelling dat ik onderzoek ging naar huishoudens met kinderen aan het hoofd. Helaas kwam ik er snel achter dat het allemaal niet zo makkelijk zou gaan. Ik had al wel verwacht dat toegang verkrijgen tot het veld lastig zou zijn. Het gaat immers om kinderen die hun ouders verloren. Dit kan een gevoelig onderwerp zijn, zeker als dit te maken heeft met HIV/Aids. Maar dit bleek niet de kwestie te zijn die mijn onderzoek moeilijk ging maken. Lees verder

‘Unconventional gender identities': a master research on the world wide web

Master-student Firaas Fouani is currently finishing his thesis. In the report below he sketches the process and the outcomes of his research on debates on internet-forums and blogs on issues revolving around “unconventional gender identities”. His work is an example of how “the field” for anthropological research today might as well be an internet-site as a specific remote community or an organization.

By Firaas Fouani

For the many years I have dwelled the internet I have witnessed the multitude of aspects the gender spectrum contains being discussed and debated, although rarely with calm, restraint and nuance. Especially when the indisputable truth a specific view has long been thought to possess is being called into question, particularly those opposing this challenge will come out and defend the accepted view with great fervour. As a strong proponent of a view on gender that is more open and accepting to nonconventional ideas I have long wondered why this is the case?

What is it that leads people to so fiercely defend the views on gender they have accepted as normal and true and at the same time attack with just as much vehemence those that do not conform to or go against them? Why is this done with such conviction? Those questions I sought to answer in my 2012 Bachelor’s research through the analysis of comments on two news items challenging the conventionally accepted ideas about gender and in particular the dominant ‘Western’ view of the binary gender system: one about a Canadian couple not revealing the sex of their youngest child to the outside world and raising the child not specifically as a boy or a girl, the other on a 2011 report by Human Rights Watch seeking to improve the rights of transgender people in the Netherlands.


Source: waltzingmorethanmatilda.com

Both invoked much ire and resistance from online commenters reading about these issues. I set out to find out more. Who were these commenters? What did they say? Why did they say these things? By the end of this research I had a fairly expansive answer to the second question, but answers to the who? and why? questions still remained to be desired. Opportunity to fulfill this desire came a year later. The research accompanying my Master’s thesis was an excellent chance to continue and expand upon my Bachelor’s research.

So I ventured back onto the internet for a three month digital fieldwork period. The scale had been increased since the last research. Rather than comments on just two articles, I observed, participated in and analysed seven discussions on nonconventional views on gender, spread across five Dutch online discussion forums. This allowed for a larger amount of participants, and subsequently more data, as well as the ability to actually get in touch with these participants and gain more firsthand insight about them. Where the previous research had focused almost entirely on the commenters opposing the news items under discussion, this time I decided to look at the entire spectrum of reactions for a broader and more complete view on how nonconventional ideas or gender are received. The main research question, how people react to nonconventional ideas about gender and why, remained largely the same.

This was my first relatively large-scale research and it proved to be a more daunting and demanding task than I had anticipated. This became more evident the longer fieldwork continued. Keeping track of all the discussions across the varying online communities simultaneously, making certain they remained active and gathering, sorting and analysing all data they produced made research feel chaotic at times. The implications of it being an online research, furthermore, became evident in two aspects in particular. On the one hand there was the research aspect of the online: I was familiar with the internet, but this was the first time I had entered and actively participated in it in the role of researcher. On the other hand, the online aspect of the research demanded I took into account certain issues that distinguish it from offline fieldwork even before the research had begun. Attaining informed consent, transparency, participants’ privacy and their perception of privacy were especially sensitive as well as ambiguous issues. Both how and to which extent they were to be applied involved a great amount of consideration. Finally, in part continuing on these issues, not everyone was pleased with my activities on the forums, especially when publicly announcing my role as researcher and explaining my intentions during the conclusion of my fieldwork period. Condescension and mockery towards Master’s students, anthropology and social science in general were common. The covert conduction of my research was not appreciated and criticised as not properly handled. It even led to a ban from one of the forums. All these hurdles have certainly not been insurmountable, though, and through the gathered data I managed to come closer to answering the previously unanswered questions.

With the reactions in the Bachelor’s research in mind I had expected the number of people opposing nonconventional ideas to form the vast majority. However, there appeared to be very little consistency in views on gender. Even within specific groups on the individual forums most discussion participants had remarkably varying views on the different issues under discussion and in the less polarizing discussions there did appear to be at least some room for ‘dissenting’ views. Further emphasizing this was the mostly absent correlation between the identity categories I had identified among the forum users and specific views on gender. Even among the more conservative religious commenters, often strictly adhering to their beliefs, there was usually some nuance in the opinions people voiced. Finally, my expectations were further invalidated when issues that moved further away from the binary gender system did not necessarily generate more disapproval or hostility than those that remained ‘closer to home’. Unfortunately, while the what? and why? questions have been expanded upon, the idea of getting in touch with the participants did not unfold as planned and did not go further than forum posts an progress towards answering who? has thus been rather minimal.

Nevertheless, looking back at the research as a whole, I believe it has proven to be both an insightful and surprising experience. It allowed me to better learn the ropes of developing, conducting and work out research in an online research setting, as well as attain new and greater understanding of people’s perception of gender, if only within the scope of the five discussion forums under research. It will of course take more than my single research project to steer the perception of, the thinking about and the attitude towards gender’s many facets into being more open and accepting, but I do hope it will at the very least help push them further in that direction.

Bosnië-Herzegovina: Ook in voetbal verdeeld

IMG_1327Door Gerwin Peelen.         In aanloop naar het WK-voetbal organiseert de FIFA een toer door de gekwalificeerde landen en zo ook bij debutant Bosnië-Herzegovina. Afgelopen weekend was de Wereldbeker te bewonderen in de Bosnische hoofdstad  Sarajevo  waar wordt uitgekeken naar het hoogtepunt in de recente voetbalgeschiedenis: Schitteren in Brazilië.

Na jaren van corruptie, etnische verdeeldheid en zelfs uitsluiting door de FIFA lijkt de kwalificatie voor het WK de uiteindelijke beloning van hervormingen in de voetbalbond. Europees commissaris Stefan Fule riep daags na de kwalificatie politici dan ook op om het voorbeeld van hun voetballers te volgen en de verwachtingen van de Bosnische burger waar te maken. De voetballers zelf werden als helden onthaald in de hoofdstad en na de beslissende wedstrijd tegen Litouwen gingen supporters massaal de straat op. Lees verder

De maat is vol voor de Bosnische bevolking: Corruptie, vriendjespolitiek en werkloosheid

Rellen BosnieDoor Gerwin Peelen. De demonstraties in Bosnië zijn inmiddels al meer dan een week aan de gang. Boze burgers in Tuzla gingen de straat op om te reageren tegen de hoge werkloosheid en het instorten van de lokale economie. Het sloeg over naar de andere steden in Bosnië waaronder de hoofdstad Sarajevo. In eerste instantie om de Bosniërs in Tuzla te steunen maar al snel keerden de protesten zich tegen het overheidssysteem, de economische malaise en de politieke corruptie.

Rellen van vrijdag ‘Dit heb jij nog nooit meegemaakt. Maar ik al duizend nachten. In de oorlog’, aldus één van de informanten in een kroeg na de rellen van afgelopen vrijdag. De vooral oudere demonstranten veranderden in toeschouwers en een jongere generatie nam het op tegen de ME en zette het Kantongebouw in vuur en vlam. Ook het naastgelegen Presidentieel gebouw werd bestookt door honderden jongeren. Chaos was meester op het politieke plein en diverse kiosken werden geplunderd en in de fik gezet.
Lees verder

Time to look at girls: Migratie in en uit Ethiopië

Uitzicht 1 001Door Marina de Regt. In de nacht van zaterdag op zondag ben ik in Addis Abeba aangekomen om aan een nieuw onderzoeksproject te beginnen. Na een lange vlucht via Istanbul, verlangend naar een bed, werd ik in een gammele taxi van het vliegveld naar hotel Green Valley gereden om er daar achter te komen dat mijn hotelkamer pas ’s ochtends om 7.00 uur gereed zou zijn. In Ethiopië begint de dag niet om middernacht, zoals bij ons, maar om 6.00 uur ’s ochtends! Zondag 9 februari was daarom nog niet aangebroken. Gelukkig was er een kamer vrij in een nabijgelegen hotel, alleen was die twee keer zo duur. De volgende ochtend ben ik naar Green Valley verhuisd, en heb me tevreden geïnstalleerd in een kamer op de vierde verdieping met uitzicht over… nee, niet over een groene vallei maar wel over de stad, met zijn golfplaten huizen, vele bomen, en groene heuvels.

In tegenstelling tot wat velen denken is Ethiopië geen grote woestijn, en is het er niet altijd en overal bloedheet. Addis Abeba, letter Nieuwe Bloem, ligt op 2000 meter hoogte en heeft een heerlijk klimaat: het grootste deel van het jaar is het overdag rond de 25 graden en ’s nachts tien graden lager. Alleen in het regenseizoen, in de zomermaanden juli en augustus, is het kouder en natter. Ethiopië is daardoor ook heel groen: overal zijn bomen en groene vlaktes. De hongersnoden die vaak zo prominent in de media komen vinden slechts in bepaalde delen van het land plaats. Natuurlijk betekent dat niet dat Ethiopië een rijk land is: het is een van de armste landen van Afrika en dat is, onder anderen, te zien aan de bedelaars op straat, de golfplaten winkeltjes en werkplaatsjes en de gammele busjes en taxis. Het krioelt overal van de mensen; de bevolkingsgroei is enorm en velen trekken naar de stad op zoek naar werk. Lees verder

De onrusten in Zuid-Soedan (en Gulu)

SpW Rixt Vellenga Gulu kaartDoor Rixt Vellenga     Gulu is de grootste handelsstad in Noord-Oeganda. De regio Acholiland is rijk aan vruchtbaar land. Cassave, tomaten, aardappelen, rijst, bonen en papaya’s worden vanuit Acholiland naar verschillende regio’s en landen geëxporteerd. Met name naar de Democratische Republiek Congo en Zuid-Soedan. Sinds december heerst er onrust in Zuid-Soedan, en dat is met name in Gulu te merken.

Zuid-Soedan is sinds 2011 onafhankelijk van Soedan. De talrijke etnische groepen in Zuid-Soedan hadden jarenlang hun krachten gebundeld in hun gezamenlijke strijd voor onafhankelijkheid. Maar nadat het land in 2011 uiteindelijk daadwerkelijk onafhankelijk werd, viel de gemeenschappelijke vijand weg en kwamen de etnische tegenstellingen weer boven. Het geweld in Zuid-Soedan brak in december 2013 uit toen de president van Zuid-Soedan, Salva Kiir (van het Dinka volk) verklaarde dat de voormalige vice-president Riek Machar (van het Nuer volk) een poging tot staatsgreep had gedaan. Machar ontkent dergelijke pogingen tot een coup. Lees verder