Tunisia’s Andalusians: The Cultural Identity of a North African Minority

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 3:30 PM
Nassau East (New York Hilton)
Marta Dominguez Diaz, University of St. Gallen
North Africa received from the eighth century until the seventeenth century a continuous influx of migrants coming from the Iberian Peninsula, a significant proportion of which settled in the territories today known as Tunisia. Since then, those who were Muslim (or converted to Islam once in North Africa) have come to be locally known as ‘Andalusians’. Despite their social and economic diversity, Andalusian communities have maintained a degree of cohesion and a sense of identity evident until the present day, a unity in which both endogamous marriages and a tendency towards forming segregated villages and urban quartiers, have played a relevant role. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 Tunisians are Andalusian.

Andalusians have been a minority in Tunisia since their arrival from the Iberian Peninsula, but being an Andalusian has meant different things in different epochs. Since the time of the Jasmine Revolution in 2010-11, there has been an increase in the number of people who claim an Andalusian identity. Based on the book of the same title, this paper explores what it means to be an Andalusian in post-revolutionary Tunisia. Andalusian identity is explored and conceptualized in this book from a variety of angles, a) as ‘emplaced’ in particular localities, b) as ‘historicized’ by particular actors, c) as conceived in contraposition to its ‘others’, and d) as articulated transnationally as a political cause. The book understands Andalusian identity in Tunisia as an ethnic category continually in the making, used to situate Andalusians in relation to others, and in the process, to provide individuals with mechanisms to make sense of their place in Tunisian society. Andalusian identity is not a taken-for-granted unchangeable constant that exists in Tunisian society, but a dynamic construct constantly reshaped by societal and political developments, in the country and abroad.

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