in: Thersites 1, 2015, 203–248.
Article en ligne sur : http://www.thersites.uni-mainz.de/index.php/thr/article/view/11/10.
This paper deals with the functionalisation of antiquity in the self-repre-sentation of modern Tunisia’s authoritarian presidents, Habib Bourguiba (1956–1987) and Zine el Abidine Ben Ali (1987–2011). On the basis of extensive evidence, which has not yet been the subject of synoptic study, this paper analyses the use made of the country’s ancient past by its autho-ritarian discourses of identity-formation. This research sheds light to the classical reception in public appearances, speeches, national commemoration days and programmes of Tunisian pavilions during world exhibitions. To comprehend the image of Tunisia projected in the time of these two presidents, one must explore the antiquity-based iconography of modern coins, banknotes, post stamps, architecture, and building programmes, which bear the explicit marks of Bourguiba or Ben Ali. Their self-positioning within Tunisia’s cultural heritage, their intervention in its cultural policy, and the interplay between the regime-controlled construction of national identity on the one hand and the country’s classical and ancient studies on the other were important aspects of the autocrats’ references to the state’s glorious past. This dialectic becomes obvious when analysing the two autocrats’ influence over education policy and curricula for history teaching. On the basis of this broad approach and by comparison with other authoritarian systems, it is not only possible to understand some mecha-nisms and developments in the appropriation of the ancient past by both rulers, but also to unpack significant components of Tunisia’s image abroad during their reigns.