Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Program Name

Tunisia: Emerging Identities in North Africa


The frequent metaphor of Tunisia as an island requires reevaluation. An island demands continuity unto itself, a feature that Tunisia distinctly lacks. Despite higher than usual levels of ethnic and religious homogeneity, Tunisia has historically maintained low levels of local-national interaction and accommodation. This analysis examines how the post-independence government of Habib Bourguiba sought to coax rural and agrarian communities into participation in the national identity and thereby promote continuity throughout the country via disruptive, large-scale government projects as part of the “modernity drive.” Specific attention is given to agricultural cooperatives and land collectivization in the 1960s. This analysis is further built on a case study of the application and lingering effects of such land policy in the village of Chebika – a rural mountain oasis of the Tunisian south representative of the closed off, subsistence based lifestyle common at independence.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Public Policy | Regional Sociology