Transitional Justice Viewed through the Lens of Gender: Becoming a Female Victim in Revolutionary Tunisia

My thesis deals with the involvement of women said to be victims of repression in the Tunisian transitional justice process. Little research has been done on the place of victims in transitional justice programs – an ensemble of mechanisms aimed at pacifying and democratizing societies after a conflict or the fall of a dictatorship by recognizing victims. Most studies have adopted institutional perspectives and analyzed programs a posteriori. This research shifts the analysis of transitional justice onto its reception by local actors as well as their socialization to transitional justice. To do so, I combine the sociology of law, as in legal consciousness studies, the anthropology of development, and the sociology of mobilizations.

In Tunisia, the participation of women, who represent a force for political change, has been identified by national and international actors of transitional justice as central to the latter’s success. A large campaign was therefore led to promote their involvement. The testimonies of these women, re-appropriated today in associative and political spaces, represent both an issue and a tool of transitional justice, and as such, crystalize tensions related to it. My research, based on ethnographic observation and interviews with local and international actors of transitional justice, women victims and those who refuse to file a dossier, is in three parts. First, how women decide to file or not to file a victim dossier with the truth commission and how they experience the process of transitional justice. Secondly, I study the effects of the technical and financial support of associations of women victims by international organizations on their collective identities and militant careers. Lastly, I examine the differential appropriations and valorizations of victim categories and their impacts on the construction of the political subjectivities of women victims involved in transitional justice.

Affiche du film documentaire, « Des Tunisiennes sous embargo », réalisé par l’association Tounissiet

Poster of the documentary, “Tunisian women under embargo”, by the association Tournissiet.