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Tunisia's Modern Woman
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Book description

Claims over women's liberation vocalized by Tunisia's first president, Habib Bourguiba began with legal reforms related to family law in 1956. In this book, Amy Aisen Kallander uses this political appropriation of women's rights to look at the importance of women to post-colonial state-building projects in Tunisia and how this relates to other state-feminist projects across the Middle East and during the Cold War. Here we see how the notion of modern womanhood was central to a range of issues from economic development (via family planning) to intellectual life and the growth of Tunisian academia. Looking at political discourse, the women's press, fashion, and ideas about love, the book traces how this concept was reformulated by women through transnational feminist organizing and in the press in ways that proposed alternatives to the dominant constructions of state feminism.


‘Amy Kallander’s study is essential reading for those working to understand the lasting effects of 20th state feminism projects in the Middle East and North Africa. With careful research that includes key Tunisian periodicals and memoirs to supplement archival research, Kallander presents us also with a clear sense of Tunisian women’s agency in navigating both national and international pressure to conform to particular formulations of modern womanhood. The analysis Kallander provides of the Tunisian experience offers a compelling basis for re-evaluating the contemporaneous experiences of women elsewhere in the region.’

Camron Amin - University of Michigan

‘By questioning our preconceived ideas about state feminism and by recovering the instrumental roles of female activists in postcolonial Tunisia, this book is a must-read and a milestone for the studies of gender relationships in the Arab world.’

M’hamed Oualdi - The Paris Institute of Political Studies

‘Amy Kallander compellingly locates debates about women’s political rights, economic roles, dress and family planning in 1960s Tunisia within their global, national and local conditions of production. Eloquently exploring the intersection of discourses with the heterogeneity of women’s lives, this book will be key reading for students and scholars of women and gender history and the Global 1960s in North Africa and the Middle East, and beyond.’

Natalya Vince - University of Portsmouth

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  • Introduction
    pp 1-37


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