This article examines love as a facet of nation building in constructions of modern womanhood and national identity in the 1950s and 1960s. In Tunisia and France, romantic love was evoked to define an urban, middle-class modernity in which the gender norms implicit in companionate marriage signaled a break with the past. These ideals were represented in fiction and women's magazines and elaborated in the novel genre of the advice column. Yet this celebration was interrupted by concern about “mixed marriage” and the rise of anti-immigrant discrimination targeting North Africans in France. Referring to race or religion, debates about interracial marriage in Tunisia and the sexual stereotyping of North African men in France reveal the continuity of colonialism's racial legacies upon postcolonial states. The idealization of marital choice as a testament to individual and national modernity was destabilized by transnational intimacies revealing the limits of the nation-state's liberatory promise to women.
Amy Kallander is Associate Professor of Middle East History and Affiliated Faculty with Women's and Gender Studies at Syracuse University. She is the author of Tunisia's Modern Woman: Nation-Building and State Feminism in the Global 1960s (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and Women and Gender in the Palace Households in Ottoman Tunisia (University of Texas Press, 2013).