Kinship and the Affective Politics of Citizenship in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia

  • This project examines the politics of kin-work performed by families of Tunisian ex-combatants, a form of affective labor that sustains care relations for kin who have migrated to regional sites of jihad. In a hostile public sphere where the jihadi denotes a monstrous form of life, any political advocacy for ex-combatants requires first recovering their humanity. Drawing on street protests, TV talk shows, and other cultural forms, I show how kinship claims reinforce citizenship rights under the Global War on Terror.
    AvH, 2022-2024

    Research Questions

    1. How do Tunisian families mobilize public performances of kinship as a form of political advocacy for kin who have volunteered jihadi groups abroad?
    2. How does entanglement in transnational violence transform kinship itself, producing new forms of attachment with distant kin acquired through war-time marriages, as well as kin-like solidarity among activist families?
    3. What forms of integration are available to returnees from regional war zones, to facilitate their reentry into home communities?
    4. What does the treatment of returnees reveal about the uneven reform of the security sector, as Tunisia prosecutes a war on terror under fragile democratic auspices?

    Contribution to International Research

    Breaking with security-oriented studies of transnational jihad that focus predominantly on ideology and radicalization processes, my research examines how a kin-member’s participation in transnational jihad affects and transforms the intimate domain of the family. In doing so, the study pushes back against analyses of jihad as an “exceptional” phenomenon, revealing how it emerges as a viable life choice for many Tunisians from within a social milieu where similar migratory trajectories are practiced by the precarious.

    Research Design and Methods

    Research is based on:
    - Participant observation at demonstrations and other public events
    - Semi-structured interviews at with family members of jihad volunteers, and repeated visits to their homes
    - Collection and analysis of visual media, including television clips, public service announcements, films, and political cartoons.

    Preliminary Findings


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