Tunis: The Hara, 19th & 20th century photographs


Tuesday, November 1, 2016 (All day) to Wednesday, December 14, 2016 (All day)


CMES, Room 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies presents an exhibition of photographs of

Tunis: The Hara
19th & 20th centuries

Organized by Margaux Fitoussi, MTS candidate, Harvard Divinity School

Since the 13th century, there existed a strong Jewish presence in the north-east of the medina of Tunis. The Jews of Tunis lived in the Hara, in community, until they began moving out of the medina during the French colonial period (1881-1956). Structurally, the Hara was similar to the rest of the medina: a multitude of low, whitewashed buildings located on sinuous paths. This neighborhood, however, the lowest point of the medina and was considered to be more insalubrious: whether this was true remains unclear.

Unlike other Jewish communities in the Arab world, the Hara lay within city walls and not on the periphery. Thus far, we have been unable to find official documentation that the Jews were formally required to live in the Hara. However, what is clear is that for over 700 years there existed an important Jewish population that cohabitated with other communities living in Tunis and contributed to Tunisian economic, social, political, and intellectual life. The photographs in this exhibition, from the late 19th and early 20th century, invite us to reflect upon themes such as communitarianism, colonialism, nationalism, and migration. They compel us to question the rosy narrative of a multicultural past and of historic Judeo-Muslim relations present in Tunis today.

A larger version of this multi-media exhibition was presented in Tunis, for the first time in July 2016 at the Dar Ben Achour library in the medina of Tunis. The photographs are from the personal collection of Bernard Allali, President of the Association of the Arts and Popular Traditions of the Jews of Tunisia. This exhibition was curated by Margaux Fitoussi with support from the Ben Gacem family, the Harvard Divinity School Dean’s Summer Internship fellowship, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

The exhibition will be open, Monday-Friday, from 9am-5pm, November 1-December 20, 2016.

Please note: exhibition curator Margaux Fitoussi will give a talk on the photographs and the history of the Tunis Hara at CMES on November 4th at 12 pm: Nostalgia, Memory, Place: Revisiting Judeo-Muslim relations in the Hara of Tunis.

Contact: Liz Flanagan