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Transgressive Protest after a Democratic Transition: The Kamour Campaign in Tunisia

McCarthy, Rory

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A democratic transition is likely to bring significant changes to the character of contentious politics. Scholars argue protest is likely to become normalized and more frequent because of new opportunities, but less radical because it is channelled by political actors into a more responsive political system. However, less attention has been paid to explaining those protest episodes, which remain transgressive. This article uses an original event catalogue and informant interviews to examine the microlevel interactions within one such episode, the Kamour protest in Tunisia in 2017, in which hundreds of young unemployed protesters staged a four-month long sit-in and shut off an oil pipeline to demand jobs and increased state spending in their region. Findings show that in conditions of low political trust, protesters relied on three mechanisms: they escalated but self-limited their actions; organized autonomously but used fraternization to seek the protection of the military; and resisted institutionalization as a political party even as they transformed their claims to appeal to the ‘absent state’ to demand deeper democratic reforms. Evidence from Tunisia contributes to explaining how political mistrust shapes transgressive protests after a democratic transition.


McCarthy, R. (2022). Transgressive Protest after a Democratic Transition: The Kamour Campaign in Tunisia. Social Movement Studies, 21(6), 798-815.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 14, 2021
Online Publication Date Sep 1, 2021
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Aug 30, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Social Movement Studies
Print ISSN 1474-2837
Electronic ISSN 1474-2829
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 6
Pages 798-815
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Copyright Statement
&copy; 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor &amp; Francis Group.<br /> This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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