Home Institution

Macalester College

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Program Name

Tunisia: Popular Culture and Globalization in the Arab World


When France made Tunisia a protectorate in 1881, they introduced language policies that established French as the language of the public sphere and restricted Arabic to religion and the home. Until Tunisian independence in 1956, French was officially the language of social and economic mobility and even after the establishment of the republic French persisted unofficially as the language of the public sphere. It maintained this role despite the establishment of Arabic as the official language and the ultimately failed policies of Arabization. This study will focus on code-switching in Tunisia, or the habitual switching between French and Arabic that many citizens practice. Based on interviews with several Tunisian women who came of age during the transition from the protectorate to the republic, this paper attempts to prove that French and Arabic are politically charged languages that signify identity in Tunisia. The research, however, indicates that the issue is too complicated to be explained with a single theory that equates language and identity.


Linguistics | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology of Culture


Article Location