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Silvia Marsans-Sakly, PhD
Fairfield University (Fairfield, CT 06824-5195)
A History of Democratic Protest and Memory in Tunisia, 1864-2011

A book-length study of the Tunisian revolt of 1864 and the impact of the memory of the revolt on subsequent Tunisian history—in particular the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia that launched the Arab Spring.

In 2010 a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, igniting a movement that toppled a dictator and engulfed the Arab world. Stunned by this revolution in a place typically considered a quiet destination for Western tourists, experts explained the tumult via references to European historical experience: 1789, 1848, 1989. Tunisians saw it differently, through the uprising of 1864. This was the pivotal year when intransigent tribes joined the coastal cities in an attempt to bring down the ruling bey, and failed. The event has been debated ever since. Through periods of liberal reform, French colonialism, and national liberation the events of 1864 have remained a battleground of memory, one that informs contradictory ideals of change in Tunisia. The ouster of Ben Ali in 2011 revived this contested legacy. We cannot grasp the meaning of 2011 or the Arab Spring without understanding 1864. This book explains what happened and the living politics of its memory.

Project fields:
Near and Middle Eastern History

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2017 – 8/31/2018