Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Affairs

First Advisor

Professor Rachel Cantave


The Arab Spring of 2011 was an incredible tale of desperation, defiance, and vast political transformations—of civil society across North Africa and the Middle East revolting against dictatorship, corruption, and demanding democracy and freedom. Tunisia gained widespread international attention following the revolutions as the sole country to attain democracy. However, many Western scholars and news reports have dismissed Tunisia’s triumph as a lucky break and lauded its attainment of democracy and, especially, its newfound freedom of expression. Such a focus on “Tunisian exceptionalism,” however, ignores the nuanced consequences that have accompanied the country’s vast political transformation.

Situated a decade post-Arab Spring in Tunisia, this research explores the impact of the Revolution and democracy on one particular facet of society: freedom. The concept of freedom is a complex, charged, and fluid one. This paper seeks to unpack it through three main strands: its acquisition, performance and manifestation, and costs, through the lived experiences of young Tunisian artists. This was the demographic central to catalyzing, and subsequently, benefitting from what is considered the Revolution’s sole gain: freedom of expression. This study is a primarily ethnographic one that consists of interviews and case studies from one performance arts space in urban Tunis. In discussing freedom and its nuanced expressions through lived realities, this study finds that there is much left to be desired in civil society today and implores a critical analysis of the framing structures of Western neoliberal democracy and postcolonialism that haunt the country.