Inside Tunisia's al-Nahda: Between Politics and Preaching

(Cambridge University Press, 2018)

In the wake of the Arab uprisings, the Tunisian Islamist movement al-Nahda voted to transform itself into a political party that would for the first time withdraw from a preaching project built around religious, social, and cultural activism. This turn to the political was not a Tunisian exception but reflects an urgent debate within Islamist movements as they struggle to adjust to a rapidly changing political environment.

This book re-orientates how we think about Islamist movements. Drawing on extensive fieldwork with grassroots activists of Tunisia's al-Nahda, Rory McCarthy focuses on the lived experience of activism to offer a challenging new perspective on one of the Middle East's most successful Islamist projects. Original evidence explains how al-Nahda survived two decades of brutal repression in prison and in social exclusion, and reveals what price the movement paid for a new strategy of pragmatism and reform during the Tunisian transition away from authoritarianism.



Foreign Affairs (May/June 2019)

From the back cover

Inside Tunisia’s al-Nahda is an important contribution to our understanding of Tunisian politics and of contemporary Islamist movements. By looking closely at the experience of Tunisian Islamists in a single city over several decades, Rory McCarthy extracts critical new insights into how Islamist movements organize, recruit, and formulate political strategies … This will be a must-read for anyone engaging with questions about political Islam in a changing Middle East.’
Marc Lynch, Professor of Political Science, George Washington University

‘[This book] draws on hundreds of hours of formal and informal discussions with current and former members of the al-Nahda movement.’
François Burgat, Emeritus Director of Research, CNRS, Aix-en-Provence

‘A fascinating and incisive analysis of al-Nahda’s evolution … McCarthy sheds new light on the sources of al-Nahda’s resilience during the long years of repression under Bourguiba and Ben Ali, as well as its comeback in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution … A major contribution to “next-wave” scholarship on Islamist movements.’
Carrie Wickham, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Emory University