Date of Award

Spring 4-14-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Nurten Kilic-Schubel


The first Tunisian president, Habib Bourguiba, enscribed himself as the “freer of woman” in gold lettering on the front door of his self-designed mausoleum, built in 1963. Beginning in the 1930s many Tunisians, led by the young religious intellectual Tahar Haddad, had actively considered the “woman question,” the continual deliberations within families, the state, and society about gender roles. Haddad and others argued for a change in women’s role within society, viewing their position as representative of its health. Bourguiba and his new postcolonial government utilized this argument in 1956 with the passage of the Personal Status Code, a family law which, in many ways, intended to regulate and answer the “woman question.” The Code simultaneously promoted a unified Tunisian state and nationalism, indicating the ways in which womanhood had become representative of the nation. In addition to its explicit goals, the Code also contributed to the government’s promotion of a unified national identity and creation of centralized institutions. Almost immediately after the Code’s passage, Tunisians began contesting and questioning the government’s assertion that it was the only prominent actor in the promotion of women’s rights, promoting new narratives to counter the state’s hegemonic control of the historiography of the women’s movement. Throughout modern Tunisian history, the “woman question” has remained integral to Tunisian constructions of national identity and policy.

Rights Statement

All rights reserved. This copy is provided to the Kenyon Community solely for individual academic use. For any other use, please contact the copyright holder for permission.