From July 21 to 28, 2023: I was in Aix-en-Provence, at the Archives nationales d’Outre Mer, working on documents expressing protests from the Algerian civil society against French colonial occupation and violent repression as well as on how trade unions shared such protests.
On July 11-13, 2023, I participated in the “50 years of the Journal Urban History” conference in Leicester, at the Centre for Urban History. As a member of the advisory board of the journal, I was part of the roundtable “The Long Lives of Urban History Journals”.I also took the opportunity of my presence in Leicester to visit, together with the scholars who participated in a session on the urban history of Palestine that I chaired, the offices of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa Project (EAMENA)
On July 5-8, 2023, I participated in the conference “The Ottomans and Disorder“, organized by Kate Fleet at the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies (University of Cambridge, Newnham College) with a paper entitled “Disorder as the Sign of a Rupture of the Urban Civic Pact: Case Studies from Ottoman Aleppo, Cairo and Tunis”.
While in Cambridge, I also visited the Cairo Genizah Digitalization Project. I was given the chance to consult unique documents and I discussed issues of conservation and digitalization with the colleagues.
On June 26 and 27, 2023, I participated in the conference “Orientalismus – jüdisch und katholisch” organized by the Katholische Akademie Berlin and the Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, with a paper entitled “Contemporary Interpretations of Orientalism in the Context
of Post-Colonial Studies”
On June 24, 2023, I presented a keynote conference at Universität Hamburg (Asien-Afrika Institut, Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1, Raum 221) on “the interpretations of the biography of Emir Abdel Qader, between resistance to colonial occupation, Ottoman networks and the building of a national memory”. This event was part of the commemorations of the 140th anniverary of Abdel Qader’s death. It was organized together with the Algerian Embassy in Germany.
On June 7-9, 2023, I worked in Vincennes at the Service historique de la Défense on files pertaining to Algeria and Libya.
I was also at the Bibliothèque de l’Hôtel de Ville, working on superb documents.
On June 5, 2023, I took advantage of being on Paris for visiting the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris. I found very interesting historical correspondences about Algeria.
On May 30 and 31, 2023, I presented the outcomes of the HISDEMAB research programme at the American Academy in Berlin, in a panel dedicated to the roots of political mobilization in the MENA region, as part of a conference entitled “The Middle East Landscape from a Transatlantic Perspective”.
On May 25-26, 2023, I participated in the Worlds apart? Futures of Global History International Conference in Vienna with a paper entitled “Challenging the Global Narratives of Global History: An Exploration of Alternative Paths from the Arab World“.
On May 22-24, 2023, I came to Vienna a few days before the “Worlds Apart” conference on global history in order to explore the Ottoman and Arabic collections of the Österreichische Staatsarchiv, both at Nottendorfer Gasse and Minoriten-Platz.
During the discussion, I insisted on the different perspectives.
- The narrative construction of the movie
I explored the significance of the indirect echo to the 12th episode of the 1st season of X-Files (1993), dedicated to phenomena of spontaneous combustion and murders by induced immolation. For a Director like Youssef Chebbi and his co-screenplay author François Michel Allegrini, the TV culture of the 1990s is central, together with references to American Noir cinema like Kiss me Deadly by Robert Aldrich (1955). What the implicit reference allows is an entanglement of narratives: the screenplay develops in parallel both the narration of an investigation about a possibly supranatural case and the narration of a larger conspiracy.
In the movie we have: the murders on the one side and the tensions around the work on the Truth and Dignity commission about the torture practiced by the police under the Bourguiba and Ben Ali regime. The conspiracy has various levels: elements of the former regime, Islamist activists, and all the blurry figures in between. There are also various levels of movie narrative construction that imply the film de genre. Here I would call it Fantasy Thriller in the mirror of the specificities of the recent Tunisian history. The most striking one is of course that of immolations, that have for Tunisia a tragic political meaning. Since Mohammed Bouazizi’s immolation in 2010 and its role as a starting point in the revolution, hundreds of such cases have occurred. The film explores cinematographically the affective shock it represents in Tunisian society. Not only a political metaphor, a spiritual horizon of fear, but also collective hysterias in the context of a dictatorship and its aftermaths.
2. The Urban Metaphor
Les Jardins de Carthage are indeed a very specific place, that synthetize a lot about the evolution of Tunisian society. They were the symbol since the beginning of our century of the complicity between the regime and a group of real estate developers. They symbolized, together with Les Berges du Lac neighbourhood, both corruption and a pattern of luxury life cut from the rest of the metropolis, with checkpoints and police controls. They then symbolized, with the state of abandon of the construction site, the fall of the regime. In spite of the marketing name, it’s not the beautiful archeological zone of Carthage. It’s on the other side of the motorway. But what the movie echoes is that even wastelands are part of a spiritual landscape. People call it the Kherba. Now that the work has started again, they symbolize a new speculative consensus between private developers and the power. The film was made in a period of in-betweeness.
Post-revolutionary Tunis was very telling about the relationship between urban planning, corruption and society. The dictatorship had changed the meaning of uses of the land inherited from the period of independence for the profit of a small group of developers. In the neighbourhood of Les Jardins de Carthage, you have all the ghosts of this period.
3. The context of the Truth and Dignity Commission
The commission Truth and Dignity was created in 2014 following a 2013 Act. It published its report in 2019.Its president was female Human Rights activist Sihem Bensedrine (whose passport was seized in March 2023 by the new regime). The task of the commission was to procede to hearings about the abuses committed by the police and the various instances of the state not only under Ben Ali but also since Independence under Bourguiba. The hearings took place in a climate of strong tension. The atmosphere in the country, too, has changed a lot between 2014 and 2019. As the victims of torture were both right wing Islamists and left wing trade unionists or human right activists, consensus was difficult to establish. There was also the strong presence of elements of the former regime in the post-revolutionary police. The film evoked these tensions. After a phase of strong presence of the Islamist Party Ennadah in the government until 2014, under President Béji Caïd Essebsi (2014-2019), coalitions were redesigned. Since 2019 Pdt Kaïs Saied pursues a more authoritarian policy. The times of the commission Truth and Dignity seem very far away in the present political landscape. On Ashkal, see also.
From 17 to 19 April, 2023, I participated in the 2023 Leibniz-ZMO yearly researchers’ retreat in Sport Center Blossin in Heidesee
From 28 to 30 March, 2023, I participated in Konstanz in the Spring School on Mediterranean History organized by Manuel Borutta and Sven Reichardt, with a presentation on “The Ottoman Mediterranean: Geopolitics and Historical Anthropology”. The full programme of this event is available here.
From March 19 to March 22, 2023, I conducted preliminary research explorations in Djerba (Tunisia), on the theme of the relationship between heritage, local civic conscience and religion. I focused my interviews on the complex local perception of the preservation process of a series of remarkable medieval mosques (here Bardaoui Mosque).
I also visited the Griba Synagogue and discussed the themes of heritage, conservation, identity and religion with Jewish communal representatives
On March 17 and 18 I attended in Tunis the conference « Imagining Futures – Dealing with Disparity » at MECAM.
From March 7 to March 17, 2023, I conducted archival research in Tunis on the theme of deliberation at the micro-local scale. On this picture (Archives nationales de Tunisie), documents about the election of local neighbourhood sheikh in Ottoman times.
On March 7, 2023, I attended at the Bibliothèque municipale de Tunis, the presentation by Nelly Amri of her new book: Sur les pas des maîtres. Two splendid hours of culture and reflection
On March 6, 2023, I presented my research projects on the theme of exile, gender and resistance in the framework of the seminar on temporary migrations in the Mediterranean, organized at the Faculté des Sciences Humaines et Sociales de Tunis by Riadh Ben Khalifa
On February 23-25, 2023 I was in Venise for the 11th Stato da Mar Conference, with a paper entitled “Nozione e pratica della deliberazione negli scritti di Al-Qalqashandî e Al-Maqrizî: Venezia allo specchio delle città del mondo arabo”
On February 19 to 21, 2023, I’m at Archivio di Stato di Venezia, for archival researches on deliberation (Venice in the Mirror of Cairo/Aleppo, and vice-versa)
On November 16-18, 2022, I participated at Ettersburg Castle in Weimar in the conference “Urbanities: History, Concept, Uses” of the “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” research programme, based at the Max Weber Centre of Erfurt Universität, with a paper entitled: “Participation, Deliberation and the Nature of Urbanity in North African Cities of the Ottoman Era“
The Video of my lecture is available online:
On October 20, 2022, the Forum “Transforming Cities, Negotiating Centrality” of the journal Historical Social Research, that I guest-edited with Colin Arnaud and Alessandra Ferrighi, has been published (2022-2, 47) . Open Access full PDF here.
On October 17, 2022, I took the opportunity of my presence in Istanbul to send to Bruno Crevato-Selvaggi, who edits the Archivio di Storia Postale a short report of my visit of the former maritime post office on the harbour, which has been transformed into a shopping mall. This process poses the question of heritage, privatization and urbanism for all.
Between October 9 and 20, 2022, I was in Istanbul for my archival research at BOA.
On October 14, 2022, I presented my research on “Forced population displacements, welfare programmes for refugees and the intimate defence of domestic spaces in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century” in the framework of the workshop Welfare and the domestic space. Housing and health in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean that took place at the Institut français d’études anatoliennes (IFEA) in Istanbul.
On 4-7 October 2022, I co-organized in Berlin, together with Manuel Borutta, Malte Fuhrmann, Esther Möller and Daniel Tödt the conference “The Mediterranean of Modernity: Global and Regional Perspectives“.
On September 25-29, 2022 took place a HISDEMAB workshop in Hammamet.
I took the opportunity of my presence in Tunis for the Insaniyyat 2022 conference (with two Hisdemab panels: “Institutions in Crisis reflections on possible democratic practices and organizations” on September 19, 11h00-13-13h00 and “Arrêt réflexif sur les études ottomanes aujourd’hui“, on September 22, 14h00-16h00) to study the registers of the deliberations of the local municipal council during the colonial era at the Ben Achour Municipal Library
Between September 12 and 17, 2022, I presented two papers in the framework of DOT Berlin 2022. The first one, part of a session on “Crossed memories and ambiguous regimes of historicity: debating the public use of history”, that I organized with Ulrike Freitag and Habib Kazdaghli, was entitled “History Writing as Memory Silencing? Algeria, France and the entangled layers of historicity of the Post-Colonial Context”. The second one was part of the session “Reflections on the historicity of democracy in the Arab and Muslim Worlds” that I organized and was dedidicated to “Complex Regimes of Historicity: The colonial Reinterpretation of Djema’a assemblies in Algeria”.
On September 13, 2022, I presented a Key Note lecture entitled “Berlin, Europe, the Middle-East: on the Entanglement of Historical Research, Humanitarian Issues and Politics” in the framework of the Herrenhausen conference “Governing Humanitarianism” in Hanover. Organizers: University of Oxford, University of Exeter, University of Cologne, Leibniz-Institute of European History Mainz, Volkswagen Foundation.
From July 25 to July 29 I’m in Aix-en-Provence, at the Archives nationales d’outre-mer (ANOM), looking for archival documents on the supervision and control of deliberations and elections in colonial Algeria.
On July 21 and 22, 2022, I was in Bremen for the “Uneasy Neighbours. Conflict and Control in the Colonial City” conference, organized by Norman Aselmeyer, Avner Ofrath and Cornelius Torp with a paper entitled “Traumatic Transitions and Forms of Popular Resilience in a Neighbourhood of Tunis from Colonisation to the Aftermaths of WWI”. A report on this event was published by Fritz Kusch and Fabienne Müller on H/Soz/Kult.
On July 13-14, 2022, I was at the University of Konstanz for the conference “Rethinking Imperial Space: Trans-Mediterranean Perspectives” Organized by the Mediterranean Platform / Dr. K.H. Eberle Forschungszentrum/Zentrum für Kulturwissenschaftliche Forschung with a paper entitled “Rethinking Ottoman Imperiality: an Urban and Mediterranean Perspective”
On July 5, 2022, we visited, together with members of the HISDEMAB research team, following our workshop on Archives and in the framework of our scholarly discussions on archives, democracy and memory, the Stasi Records Archives in Berlin.
On June 22-23, 2022, following the Amman Hisdemab international workshop, I stayed in Jordan for my archival research both at the Municipality of Amman and at the National Library of Jordan.
On June 2-3, 2022, I was in Szczecin for a conference on Urban Authenticity, organized by Tabitha Redepenning of the Herder Institute, in cooperation with Leibniz-IRS. My paper was entitled: “The Complex and Contradictory Regimes of Historicity of Urban Authenticity: Reflections on the Case of Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Cities”
On May 23-24, 2022: I organized the international workshop The Historicity of Democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient Berlin, where I presented my draft-chapter on “Introduction: Deliberation, Representation, Elections: Questioning the Historicity of Democracy in the Arab and Muslim Worlds”.
On April, 25, 2022, I participated, (18h45-21h00, just after the HISDEMAB online seminar) in an online discussion around the Routledge Handbook of EU-Middle East Relations at the College of Europe in Warsaw. Dimitri Bouris organised. Prof. Tobias Schumacher, Dr Emile Badarin and Prof. Fakhoury, all of who have written chapters for the Handbook too, participated.
On April 11, 2022, we had an online working discussion with Nizar Dalhoumi in the framework of the activities of Heike Liebau’s research group at Leibniz-ZMO. Dr. Nizar Dalhoumi is from Tunisia (Institut Supérieur des Sciences Humaines, Tunis) and he is currently in Berlin working in the archive and at Stabi. The title of his talk was “Sheikh Saleh Al-Sharif Al-Tunisi and his two inedite ‘risala’ “.
On April 9, 2022, I presented my paper “Venezia e i
Veneziani visti da Tunisi. Esplorazioni archivistiche nelle Archives nationales de Tunis” in Venice in the framework of the 10th International Congress Venezia e il suo Stato da mar.
On April 8, 2022, I presented my paper “Daily Life Spatialities and Temporalities of Religiosity in Ottoman Tunis: Reflections on the Complexity of Urban Religious Landscapes” at the online seminar on Religion, Space and Temporality of the Erfurt based Urbrel research programme.
On March 11, 2022, 17h00 (Berlin time), I presented (together with Suaad Alghafal) a paper (in Arabic) on “Methodological Reflections on History Writing in and on Libya (Ottoman era – Present times)” in the framework of the international conference on Libyan History organized online by the University of Derna.
On March 3-5, 2022, I participated in the international conference “The Presence and Absence of the Past“, organized by Çiçek İlengiz, Annika Kirbis, Jelena Radovanović, Jeremy F. Walton in the framework of the activities of the Max Planck Research Group “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities. I am part, together with Karen Barkey, Chris Hann, David Henig and Steve Vertovec of a session entitled “Afterlives of difference”.
On March 2, 2022 at 16.00, I participated in the kick-off event of the Launch Series of the Routledge Handbook of EU-Middle East Relations. In this first section, the co-editors Dimitris Bouris, Daniela Huber and Michelle Pace discussed Entanglements in EU-Middle East Relations. After that, the different Authors tackled the historical context of these multi-faceted relations and its legacy. Senem Aydin Düzgit & Bahar Rumelili demonstrated how representations of the other and the self were linked to political events pertaining to Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Then, Roberto Mazza talked about the impact of French and British colonialism in the Middle East and North Africa. Finally, I focused on “Longue Durée” reflections on anti-colonial movemnets in the Middle East from 1798 until today. For more info, please visit here.
February 13-19, 2022: I’m in Marseille reading in the Archives municipales and bibliothèque de l’Alcazar documents on assemblies of foreign merchants in cities of the Mediterranean and on the relationship between foreign merchants and local deliberative bodies in medieval, Ottoman and colonial times.
And during my breaks, I visited two superb exhibitions:
Marseille l’Italienne at the Archives municipales de Marseille
And Arts de l’Islam at Bibliothèque de l’Alcazar
February 5-13, 2022: I’m in Tunis, working at the Archives Nationales de Tunisie on documents on deliberation and voting in the Ottoman era
January 21, 2022: I am presenting my research in the framework of the seminar of the Working Group Thinkers and Theorizing from the South, organizef by my Leibniz-ZMO colleague Kai Kresse. The session is dedicated to ‘democracy’ in comparative and contextualized discussion. My paper is entitled: “Democracy from the South? Reflecting on the historicity of deliberative and elective systems in the Arab world”
January 15-16, 2022: I am participating in the International Conference on Abdelqader Al-Jazairi (Online), organized by
مكان الملتقى: المركز الدّولي للمؤتمرات عبد اللّطيف رحّال
الملتقى الدّولي حول الأمير عبد القادر الجزائري
الحُضور المتعدد وقِيم الدّولة وأسُسها الإنسانيّة
My paper is entitled:
عبدالقادر الجزائري : مسار حياته بين المقاومة ضد الاستعمار تحت مظلة الدولة العثمانية والمفاوضات مع الإمبراطورية العثمانية
November 26, 2021: I am today in Marseille, at the Institut Méditerraneéen d’Etudes Avancées (Iméra) for the French-German Forum of the Mediterranean, dedicated this year to the theme of democracy in the region.
November 18, 2021: I presented today my research on “Abdel Kader Al-Jazairi in Ottoman Perspective: Networks and Trajectories between Local Resistance and Imperial Negotiations” in the framework of the Zurich international conference on Writing individual itineraries in the Mediterranean macro-region: methodological considerations about the relationship between biography and structure.
November 2, 2021: I participated today in an international conference on contemporary Libya, organized by IRMC Tunis. I was first part of a round-table on the methodology of research in/on Libya. Then I presented a paper on “Elections, Deliberation, Participation and Representation in Libya during the era of the Ottoman reforms”.
November 1, 2021: I worked today at the Archives Nationales de Tunisie, in Tunis, exploring archival ressources on forms of deliberation and representation in the Ottoman and Colonial periods.
October 30, 2021: Today I chaired a very interesting session of the international conference “Refugees and the (Global) Cold War, hosted by the Cluster of Excellence ‘Contestations of the Liberal Script’ (SCRIPTS), Freie Universität Berlin”.
October 21, 2021: I served tofday as a discussant in the “Book Launch & Conversation: The Muslims of Latin America and the Caribbean“.The moderator was Claudia Derichs (Humboldt Universität Berlin). We discussed Ken Chitwood ‘s (Freie Universität Berlin) book, together with Andrea Miranda (Freie Universität Berlin).
October 1, 2021: Still in Venice, for the Annual Stato da Mar Conference, with a paper on the historicity of the concept of republic between Venice and the Orient
September 29, 2021: I’m in Venice today for a conference of the DFG network “Modern Mediterranean: Dynamics
of a World Region 1800-2000″, chairing a session on Trans-Mediterranean Networks.
The full programme of the conference is here:
July 21 and 22, 2021: Again at ANOM today, with highly interesting documents on the transformation of local deliberative practices under French colonial occupation in Algeria.
July 20, 2021: Today was a crucial day for my archival research on deliberative processes in the Arab world. At the Archives nationales d’Outre-Mer in Aix-en-Provence in found the documents I was looking for on deliberation in Algerian local Jama’a during the period of French colonial occupation (here in 1917). These documents will no doubt constitute one the of core elements of my future book on the subject.
July 15, 16 and 19, 2021: I explored the archival resources of the Archives Municipales de Marseille, mostly reading reports sent by local merchants about the way cities of North-Africa were governed in Ottoman times.
July 13, 2021: I was today at the Archives Départementales in Marseille, working on the question of Jewish communal representation and consultation in a French colonial context in North-Africa
July 2, 2021: A new day of research at the National Archives of Tunisia on the theme of the historicity of processes of election and deliberation, together with HISDEMAB fellow Ahlem Hajaji.
July 1, 2021: I presented today the HISDEMAB research programme at the Laboratoire du Patrimoine (Université de la Manouba) in Tunis. The event was half in real-life, half online.
الى أعضاء مخبر التراث
نظر للوضعية الصحية الصعبة التي نعيشها فاننا نخير أعضاء المخبر من أساتذة باحثين وطلبة بين الحضور الى الكلية للاجتماع مباشرة مع الزميلية نورة اللافي التي ستتولى تقديم المشروع المشترك حول تاريخ الديمقراطية المحلية في العالم العربي كما نقترح على الذين يتعذر عليهم الحضور متابعة الاجتماع بواسطة رابط الزوم الموجود أسفله بدية من الساعة الثالثة بعد الزوال.
تحياتي للجميع مع التوصية بالحذر واحترام القةاعد الصحية.مدير مخبر التراث حبيب القزدغلي
June 30, 2021: I presented today my research on Libya (“De Tripoli à Tunis, d’Istanbul à l’EUR et de Vincennes à Kew Gardens: questions d’archives, de problématisation et de méthode pour la recherche historique sur la Libye” in Tunis (Archives Nationales) as part of a methodological seminar organized by Neila Saadi (IRMC)
IRMC posted the video of this lecture:
June 28-29, 2021: In Tunis, at the National Archives of Tunisia, for my research on elective processes during the Ottoman era
June 24, 2021: I participated today in the CBC radio-show Ideas. The show, hosted by Naheed Mustafa, was dedicated to Ibn Khaldun. The Podcast is available here
June 20, 2021: I participated today in a conference organized by the University of Tobruk (Research and Scientific Studies Center) (Libya), on the theme of “Parliamentary Elections in Libya: Historical Origins, Organisation and Difficulties (1921-1952)”. My paper was entitled: “Methodological Reflections on the Study of Democracy in the Arab and Islamic Worlds: Longue Durée Questionings on the Libyan Elections of 1921”.
June 18, 2021: I participated tonight in a Panel Discussion on “Das Erbe des arabischen Frühlings, Arabellinnen und cross- oder transregionale Dynamiken“, part of the series Wissenschaftsfestival Globe21 #Bordercrossingsolidarities, at Universität Leipzig.
June 18, 2021: I presented today a paper entitled “Whose Heritage? The Persisting Ambiguities of the Heritagization of Colonial Architecture in the Middle East and North Africa” in the international conference Architectures of Colonialism. Constructed Histories, Conflicting Memories organized by BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, DFG Research Training Group 1913 “Cultural and Technological Significance of Historic Buildings”.
April 7, 2021: I attended today a superb online seminar organized by Abdul-Hameed al-Kayyali (IFPO Amman) and Amer Al-Hafi (RIIFS). Muhamed Mufaku Al-Arnaut (ISO- Kosovo) (author in 1994 of a seminal article on Islam in Bosnia) presented his research on Şemseddin Sami Frashëri (1850-1904) around the question of secularism, religion and national pluralism in the Ottoman Empire.
January 22, 2021: I presented today a lecture on “Hisba Handbooks in Ottoman Tunis: Religious Guides to Urbanity?” in the framework of the international conference Religious Guides to Urbanity organized by Martin Christ & Emiliano Urciuoli at Universität Erfurt (Max Weber Kolleg).
January 5, 2021: I presented today a lecture on “Interpreting Hisba. An Intellectual History” in the framework of the seminar on Intellectual history organized by Benjamin Steiner at Universität Erfurt (Forschungszentrum Gotha)
December 22, 2020: Thanks to an invitation by Habib Kazdaghli, I participated today in a seminar on the theme «France – Algérie, les blessures de l’histoire» [France-Algeria, the wounds of history], organized by Vasily Kuznetsov, director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IAS RAS, Moscow) around Benjamin Stora on the occasion of the writing of his report on this theme for French President Macron. Benjamin Stora’s lecture and the following discussion are available online.
October 14, 2020: In this period of forced cancellation of all research trips abroad due to the pandemic, I took an early train today from Berlin to Gotha in order to work on some Arabic manuscripts at the Forschungsbibliothek. I discovered this marvellous place during my fellowship at Max Weber Kolleg Erfurt (Jan-Sept. 2020). Of course I can’t wait to travel again to cities like Tunis, Cairo and Istanbul, among others, and do there the archival research I planned for this programme, but being among manuscripts from the region in Gotha was already for me, after months of travel impossibility a source of great joy.
Due to important renovation works in the tower of the castle, some Arabic manuscripts are not available for the moment. For these specific documents, the library provides microfilms.