Margaux Taylor Myriam Fitoussi

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Columbia U.

Grant number

Gr. 9994

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Fitoussi, Margaux (Columbia U.) "The Lives of Quartier Lafayette: A Historical Anthropology of French Colonial-Era Architecture in the Tunisian Present"

This project examines how buildings become ideological, financial, and/or affective sites of investment in the wake of the 2011 Tunisian uprising. The preservation of French colonial-era architecture has become a locus of negotiation in the refashioning of Tunisia as a cosmopolitan, liberal-secular democracy. What does architectural preservation mean in post-revolutionary Tunisia? How do projects of decolonization, class struggle, and preservation co-exist? To answer these questions, I turn ethnographic attention to preservation as a site of symbolic and material struggle in downtown Tunis. I examine disputes over Quartier Lafayette, a French colonial-era neighborhood, which had a concentration of Tunisian Jews until the 1960s, when the majority moved to France and were replaced by rural migrants. In 2018, a civil society campaign, Where is the heritage?, temporarily halted the classification of colonial-era neighborhoods as structurally unsound. Tunisians working in urbanism invoke preservation in the name of heritage. Impoverished residents of the neighborhood, for their part, do so in order to protect themselves from eviction and homelessness. Through an exploration of the semiotic, political, and material dimensions of “preservation,” I ask, what might we learn about contemporary struggles about the past, present and future of Tunis in particular, and Tunisia more generally?