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Extraordinary ethics: an ethnographic study of marriage and Divorce in Ben Ali’s Tunisia

Grosso, Sarah (2013) Extraordinary ethics: an ethnographic study of marriage and Divorce in Ben Ali’s Tunisia. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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This thesis is about family law under the Ben Ali dictatorship where the women's rights embodied in these laws constituted a cornerstone of the state's legitimacy. in 1956, Tunisia became the first Muslim country to reform Islamic family law radically, abolishing polygamy and granting women and men equal rights in divorce. Whether these laws have supported gender equality or not has been hotly contested. Based on fieldwork in a suburb of Greater Tunis and in a court (2007-2008) thesis provides an ethnographic account of the practice of marriage and divorce. From these dual perspectives it argues that ordinary ethics are an essential part of the law. The thesis begins by exploring the uncertainties that surround marriage in a lower-middle class neighbourhood. it then analyses some of the mechanisms through which the law is intimately intertwined with ordinary ethics, notably through an examination of the documentary practices of divorce files. This thesis argues that the connections between law and ethics generate radical uncertainties and anxieties. First, there is uncertainty as to whether a litigant can access justice in divorce. To access rights in divorce a litigant must strive to display highly gendered forms of ethical personhood. Rather than supporting gender equality the legal processes contribute to the homogenization of moral values at a national level as particular gender roles are debated and reinforced vial legal practice. Second, there is uncertainty as to the state's moral legitimacy as it is exposed to the moral scrutiny of its citizens through the operation of the law. The thesis argues that the politically charged setting of the court is the scene for a kind of extraordinary ethics, as divorce cases are a site where the morality of marriage and the morality of the state are simultaneously at stake.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Sarah Grosso
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Bear, Laura and Mundy, Martha

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