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Title: Tunisia, 1940-1970: The Spatial Politics of Reconstruction, Decolonization, and Development
Authors: Demerdash, Nancy N.A.
Advisors: da Costa Meyer, Esther
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: architecture
Subjects: Art history
Middle Eastern studies
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the dialectical discourses of modernism and the vernacular in Tunisian architectural and urban projects, from the late French protectorate into the period of independence, 1940-1970. With a particular focus on issues of habitation and heritage, this project tracks the reorganization of social space in the reconstruction efforts of the postwar French colonial administration and the architectural and patrimonial discourses of the Tunisian nation-state that came into existence in 1956. In an era that witnessed mass-scale land expropriations, rural-urban migrations, and popular anti-colonial sentiment, this project traces the material effects of Tunisians’ displacements and urban adaptations to their rapidly changing socio-political condition. Underscoring the dialectics intrinsic to the postwar notion of development, namely, tensions between formal and informal settlements, vernacular building traditions and prefabrication methods, and patrimonial preservation and erasure, this dissertation explores the ideological negotiations of architectural progress in the longue durée of decolonization. Throughout this tumultuous period, social housing projects sprouted in parallel with the spread of gourbivilles (earthen dwellings) and bidonvilles (‘tin can’ towns) on the outskirts of Tunisia’s urban centers. Both colonial and postcolonial institutional and state-led reckonings with vernacular architecture forwarded not only modernist building agendas, but promoted primitivizing mythologies of local construction techniques, rooted in racist attitudes towards the purportedly backward indigène. Challenging the predominant historiographical narrative that presents the independence of 1956 as a stark political rupture, this dissertation instead demonstrates that the vestiges of urban and preservationist policy schemes remained ingrained, on an institutional level, from protectorate rule. How the spatial and political processes of decolonization, nation-building, and development intersect with the ethics and economics of habitation undergirds this project.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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