Tunisia: Emerging Identities in North Africa
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Discover Tunisia’s ancient history, contemporary challenges, and cultural and geographic diversity.
The SIT Tunisia program includes a five-day educational excursion outside Tunis and one international excursion to Toulouse, France (detailed information below), as well as short field trips within Tunis and the Cap Bon region. Trips around Tunis include visiting Carthage; the Bardo archaeological museum; Tunis’s historic medina; Nabeul, Tunisia’s ceramics capital; and Hammamet, a popular holiday resort.
- Tunisia’s extraordinary historic riches
- The geographic and human diversity of Tunisia’s different regions and the way the country’s tourism industry has exploited this diversity
- The impact of mass tourism on Sahara and oases lifestyles
- North African immigrant communities in France and identity politics
Southern Excursion: Kairawan and the Sahara
This five-day excursion acquaints students with the country’s heartland and allows them to experience the juxtaposition of traditional culture and the modern influences of globalization.
In Kairawan, the first Muslim settlement built after the conquering of North Africa in the 7th century, Islamic and Arab presence is still strong. A highlight of the excursion is visiting the “Libyan” market in the town of El Jem; the market is a storehouse of products and commodities from all over the world, which serves as a testimony to the mercantile dimension of globalization. El Jem boasts the third largest Roman amphitheater in the world.
On the island of Djerba, students visit Turkish and Spanish ribats (seafront forts), Africa’s oldest synagogue, and a Talmudic school in the hara kebira (Jewish quarter). Students discuss with the local rabbi and residents challenges related to maintaining their faith in an overwhelmingly Muslim region.
En route from Djerba, students visit troglodyte dwellings and traditional Berber mountain villages, used as the set for the planet Tatooine in the Star Wars movies. In Douz, an oasis in the Sahara dunes, students spend time at a cybercafé to observe how the Internet is affecting the lives of ordinary Tunisians, particularly youth.
Learn how religion, gender, ethnicity, class, and language shape emerging identities in the large immigrant Maghrebi community in France and examine how social and cultural configurations resonate transnationally.
The program will travel to Toulouse in southern France to examine issues raised by emerging identities in the large, diverse, and dynamic Maghrebi community living in what are called “quartiers sensibles” (“sensitive neighborhoods”). The program will take advantage of the networks and contacts SIT Study Abroad already has in Toulouse.
Students will tour the banlieues (outskirts) of Reynerie and Le Mirail and meet with influential religious and secular community leaders such as imams, rabbis, political militants, and social workers. Students will also take part in a Sufi ceremony and attend lectures on the history of French colonization in North Africa and immigration in the Midi-Pyrénées region.
Issues examined may include:
- The impact of the Arab Spring on the immigrant community in France
- The emergence and significance of the veil among Maghrebi women in Toulouse
- French Islam or Islam in France?
- The role of the republican school in social and cultural promotion: integration or assimilation?
- Raï /hip hop music and Maghrebi identity in France
- Islamophobia, secularism, and republican values
Students will get the opportunity to assess how political and cultural changes happening in North Africa impact first-, second-, and third-generation North Africans in France. Students also engage with local community leaders in discussions about the attempts of successive French governments to streamline culture, contain “violent Islam,” and deal with urban riots while maintaining the strong intertwined ties between France and its former North African colonies.
Accommodations during the excursion may include hotels, guest houses, and an environmental center.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Tunisia, Tunis
Language Study: Arabic, French
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