The Journey of a Tunisian Ethnographic Museum from Colonial to Post-Revolutionary (1936-2015)

in Anthropology of the Middle East
Author:
Virginie Rey Victoria University virginie.c.rey@gmail.com

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This article presents an analysis of the evolution of ethnographic museums in Tunisia, tracing their development from the period of French colonial rule until the present. It documents and interprets the trajectory of museography in the country over nearly a century, demonstrating changes and continuities in role, setting and architecture across shifting ideological landscapes, from the colonial, to the postcolonial to the more recent revolutionary setting. It is argued that Tunisian ethnographic museums, both in their processes of conception behind the scenes and in their scenography itself, have been key sites in which to read debates about national identity. The article excavates the evolution of paradigms in which Tunisian popular identity has been expressed through the ethnographic museum, from the modernist notion of 'indigenous authenticity' to efforts at nation-building after independence, and more recent conceptions of cultural diversity. Based on a combination of archival research, participant observation and interviews with past and present protagonists in the Tunisian museum field, this research brings to light new material on an understudied area.

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