Globalization and Preservation in Tunisia: On the Colonial Past in the Neocolonial Present

By Daniel Coslett
Submitted to Session P4729 (The Preservation of Historic Architecture in North African Cities, 2017 Annual Meeting
Archit & Urb Plng
Maghreb; Tunisia;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Architectural relics of the modern colonial era dot the cityscapes of former colonies the world over, and they often feature largely in the projected urban identities of cities in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East today. Tunisia is no exception. The complex relationships between extant architectures of colonialism and current users, designers, and preservationists are shifting within the context of contemporary globalization. Though ties between France and Tunisia are less overt than they once were—now taking the form of international development loans, professional and educational exchanges, tourism programs, popular culture and the media—they are nonetheless significant in their sustained influence. This paper will explore the nature and products of potential neocolonialism in post-colonial heritage management practices, using several case studies from Tunis. In considering projects such as renovated museums, curated medina walking tours, and the Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, the paper will also consider resistance to European impositions in the creation of new practices, urban and professional identities there. What do we mean by “neocolonial” in the built environments context? Is it fair to characterize contemporary relationships demonstrated through these projects in Tunis as neocolonial? What can be gained from such a distinction, and what might it tell us about the broader North African context and historic preservation in general?