Turning a City Inside-Out.

On the Re-appropriation of Urban Space in Tunisia in Times of Revolt

Keywords: Tunisia, spatial power, re-appropriation, aesthetics, revolt


The spatial dynamics were difficult to overlook during the 2011 movements of revolt in Tunisia, pushing the damned in the center of public attention in the concerted effort of turning prevailing authoritarian politics inside–out. Venturing in the spatial contestation central in these revolts, the mesmerizing occupation and re-appropriation of symbolic places, such as the Kasbah Square or Bourguiba Avenue takes center stage. These movements of occupation and re-appropriation of spatial power produced momentous heuristic enclaves of another order, projecting dreams of a renewed inclusive free and dignified body politic. Based on a long-term research in the field of visual arts in Tunisia between 2011 and 2017 and combining various postcolonial critiques, this article proposes to show how violent processes of destruction preceding these processes of re-appropriation and occupation are too often overlooked. Police stations, the presidential personality cult and the private estate of the authoritarian regime will be identified and treated as spatial nodes that maintain the compartmentalization and fragmentation of urban space in place. Moreover, by including in the analysis the often-omitted Islamist occupation and re-appropriation of mosques and public space contesting the ongoing constitutional political dynamics, this article hopes to elucidate why the revolutionary process failed in the production of a long aspired liberated and dignifying space, as the revolutionary re-appropriation of these symbolic nodes of power was not included in any political agenda.

Author Biography

Joachim Ben Yakoub, Lecturer, Ghent Univeristy/Sint-Luca School of Arts Antwerp

Joachim Ben Yakoub is a writer, researcher, and lecturer operating in different art schools and institutions. He is affiliated with the Middle East and North Africa Research Group (MENARG) and the Studies in Performing Art & Media (S:PAM) research unit of Ghent University where he is conducting research on the aesthetics of revolt between Tunisia and Belgium. He is lecturer at Sint-Lucas School of Arts Antwerp, where he is also promotor of the collective The Archives of the Tout-Monde.

How to Cite
Ben Yakoub, J. (2022). Turning a City Inside-Out. : On the Re-appropriation of Urban Space in Tunisia in Times of Revolt. Manazir Journal, 4, 55–73. https://doi.org/10.36950/manazir.2022.4.4