How does critique emanating from the television public become significant within authoritarian public spheres such as those of the Maghreb countries? Answering this question requires that we rethink the notion of the public and reconsider how to qualify ordinary critique.
In recent debates about the notion of television audiences and their (in)capacity to produce public critique, there seems to be agreement about the limitations of their acts. Many scholars still see such acts as mundane and politically insignificant, and still consider that putatively non-political locus (e.g., domestic) can produce serious critique. This lecture addresses the difficulties these theoretical approaches face by using longitudinal fieldwork on the use of satellite television and public sphere in the Maghreb. By reorienting the theoretical frame and redefining “the public,” Ratiba Hadj-Moussa shows how North Africans produced micro-publics that enabled them to be at once indifferent to and critical of their authoritarian regimes, and why these positions proved to be instrumental to the fall of Arab regimes.