SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Nathanael Mannone

  • Overview


Nathaneal Mannone
Mr Nathanael Mannone
Email address:
Thesis title:
Managing Dissent: Censorship, Patronage, and 'Breathing Space' in Contemporary Tunisian Cultural Production
Internal Supervisors


After my BA in International Studies at Towson University (2009), I completed my MA in Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo while enjoying the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship (2012). My research focused on the intersection of music, activism, and the international news media during the January 14 Revolution in Tunisia. After graduating, I traveled back to Tunisia on a research grant and spent the summer investigating political humour. I came to SOAS in order to build upon my expertise in various fields of Tunisian cultural production, patterns of cultural consumption, as well as the state’s role in, and reactions to, changes within cultural markets.

PhD Research

Analyzing works of music, cinema, and everyday forms of humour, this thesis incorporates research from 2011-2015, in order to examine the role of cultural production prior to the 14th January Revolution in Tunisia and after. Additionally, this research focuses on the state’s multifaceted apparatuses aimed at mitigating the threat that it identified within cultural products, as well as how artists and producers utilized those (social, legal, and political) structures to a multitude of ends. Various ministries and departments not only punished political dissidents but also rewarded those who would refrain from dissenting discourses while appropriating and supporting those that served Ben Ali’s interests. This thesis focuses on the Ministry of Culture as viewed by Tunisia’s artistic community as well as how cultural figures may have both suffered and benefited (often simultaneously) from the Ministry’s programs and policies. 

Prior to Ben Ali’s deposition, the Tunisian state also utilized specific artistic critiques for legitimacy abroad while funneling resources to artists whose works would adhere to its shifting policy directives. Bearing in mind that most critique or commentary of the time could not have been issued overtly because of the governing political structures of the former regime(s), artists routinely embraced allegorical techniques as well as grotesque depictions of everyday life in order to counter the hegemonic image that the Tunisian state attempted to promote of itself both at home and abroad. Close inspection of pre-revolutionary cultural production elucidates repeated political challenges across the fields of art as well as how these dissenting discourses were in conversation across genres, to maintain pressure on the state and cultivate resistant civic attitudes.

Examining the cultural policies of the post-revolutionary state reveals a brief hiatus in censorship and co-optation, followed by the return of old practices and a Ministry that due to social and economic forces, has been slow to reform institutionally. Just as the state attempted to use some resistant cultural products to its advantage before the revolution, artists following the revolution have been able to capitalize on the state’s sometimes overzealous programs to limit dissent, gaining national and international publicity. The increased artistic dissent as well as journalistic pressures incurred by the state when it censors or imprisons artists, has functioned to increase scrutiny on the state and keep open the space for dialogue and debate so crucial to transparency during Tunisia’s democratic transition.


Book Review: Omri, Mohamed-Salah, Confluency (Tarafud) Between Trade Unionism, Culture and Revolution in Tunisia, Journal of North African Studies, Forthcoming (Expected 2016). DOI: 10.1080/13629387.2016.1225791

“Beyond Tanfis: Performativity and Quotidian Humour in Revolutionary Tunisia,” Creative Resistance: Political Humour in the Arab Uprisings, Damir-Geilsdorf, Sabine & Milich, Stephan (eds.), Ergon Verlag (Ergon Publishing House), Würzburg, Germany, Forthcoming (Expected 2017).

“Intertextuality in Tunisian Cinema: State, Allegory, and ‘Sexual Breathing Room’”, Middle Eastern Literatures, April, 2015, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p. 62-85. 24p. DOI: 10.1080/1475262X.2015.1067013

“From the Lived Experience to the Theoretical: Interdisciplinarity and Cultural Production in Revolutionary Tunisia,” Asia and Africa Across Disciplinary Lines, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, March 2015, 71-76.

Book Review(s): Layla Al-Zubaidi and Matthew Cassel, eds. Writing Revolution: The Voices From Tunis to Damascus, and, Mikala Hyldig Dal, ed. Cairo: Images of Transition: Perspectives on Visuality in Egypt, 2011-2013. Wasafiri, vol. 30, no. 1, Spring 2015, 93-95.


  • Mar. 20, 2016 “Tanfis, Performativity, and Perlocutionary Effect in Contemporary Tunisian Humor.” As part of the panel: “Subverting or Sustaining Authority: Satire in the Middle East and North Africa” Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), 47th Annual Convention. Hartford, USA.
  • Nov. 11, 2015 “Co-optation, Censorship & Effect: The Politics of Cultural Patronage in the Maghreb.” Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies’ Critical Forum. SOAS, University of London, UK.
  • June 5, 2015 “Beyond Causality: Dissidence in Contemporary Tunisian Cultural Production,” as part of the panel, “Naming the Causes and Prefiguring the Arab Spring.” At the Maghreb Academic Network Postgraduate Conference: The “Arab Spring” and Contemporary Cultural Production from the Maghreb. St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford, UK
  • Mar. 5, 2015 “Underground Culture in the Middle East”, Panel Discussion on “Forbidden Talk,” Levant TV. London, UK.
  • Mar. 4, 2015 Panel Discussion: “Framing Dissent: Political Discourse and Narratives of Resistance in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa.” Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS), SOAS, University of London, UK
  • Sept. 15-16, 2014 Tunisia/Libya Briefing for Swedish Ambassador to Libya and Tunisia, Fredrik Florén, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Covering: historical overview, culture and political Islam in Tunisia, and parallel markets (nineteenth century to present). SOAS, University of London, UK
  • Oct. 3-4 2014 “From the Lived Experience to the Theoretical: Interdisciplinarity and Cultural Production in Revolutionary Tunisia,” as part of the panel, “Social Networks Then and Now,” At the Consortium for Asian and African Studies (CAAS) 5th International Conference: Asia and Africa Across Disciplinary Lines. Columbia University, New York, USA
  • June 13, 2014 Organizing Committee, “From the Speech to the Act: Performativity on the Margins.” The Second Annual Postgraduate Conference of the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies. SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom.
  • May 16 – 17, 2014 “Speaking Truth to Power and Naming Names: Comedic Critique in the Aftermath of 14 January,” as part of the Panel, “Re-ordering Society” at the international conference: The Tunisia Revolution: Origins, Course, Aftermath. St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
  • March 27 – 29, 2014 “Beyond Tanfus: Performativity and Quotidian Humor in Revolutionary Tunisia.” Presented as part of the panel, “Reality as Fiction: Comedy, Literature, Theatre, Film” at the international conference: Creative Resistance: Political Humour in the Arab Uprisings. University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
  • October 18, 2013 “For Whom do We Produce? Reflexivity and Questions of Consecration in Contemporary Cultural Studies of the Maghreb.” Presented as part of the panel, “The State of the Field” at the Maghreb Academic Network biannual meeting, Kings College London, United Kingdom.
  • September 13, 2013 Host/Presenter, “Roots and Sprouts: By Achref Chargui and Friends.” Concert held in Acropolium de Cathage, Tunis, Tunisia.
  • July 8-11, 2013 “Violence and the ‘Laughing Chorus:’ Quotidian Humor, Intertextuality, and Epistemic Violence in Tunisia.” Presented as part of the panel “Through Dido’s Eyes: Avenues of Revolution in Intertextuality.” British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA) XIII International Conference: Migration, University of Essex, United Kingdom.