After the ‘revolution without elites,’ the Tunisian progressive-secular elite have made a comeback. They are present in the political arena through several parties and at the core of the current debate on identity and religion. They are often blamed for their acquiescence with the Ben Ali regime, as well as their incapacity to cooperate within a united front to launch a viable political project. Their stance is considered extremist for their strenuous defense of Bourguiba’s modernist legacy, which is Western-oriented and distant from the people.

The intellectual elite are wondering about their role in the Tunisian society with its different system of values and worldview. Old socio-cultural cleavages are surfacing, while Tunisian specificity (tunisianity) is being questioned. This lecture provides a historical analysis to help draw continuities and understand the evolution of political and intellectual elite in the context of the Tunisian authoritarian regime.

The lecture was delivered by Dr. Daniela Melfa at the University of California, Berkeley, on Nov. 1, 2012.

To learn more about the CMES interdisciplinary lecture series at the University of California, Berkeley, visit

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