Accepted Paper:

From sub-Saharan Africa to the Maghreb: Revitalization of Christian Churches and Landscapes in Tunisia  


Katia Boissevain (CNRS)

Paper short abstract:

I will address the religious aspect of Sub-Saharan migration in Tunisia and the ways in which it revivifies Christians Churches. Professionals, students and illegal migrants, mainly from West Africa, are changing the religious landscape through their ritual activities and their social involvements.

Paper long abstract:

Similarly to many big cities of the Arab world which have become migratory crossroads, in Tunis, migrants from sub Saharan Africa adapt their religious practice to their new life, and in a symmetric manner, religious institutions, notably the Christian Church, goes through important changes. In this small country of 10 million inhabitants, black Africans living there are either students, workers, illegal immigrants or highly paid international white collars, working for the African Development Bank, which has moved from Abidjan to Tunis in 2005. Life situations are therefore extremely varied, with men and women arriving from different African countries, with different social backgrounds,religious belongings and life projects.

Among them, a minority is Muslim and gathers in a few of the city mosques. The majority are Christian, divided between Protestants of different denominations and Catholics, francophones or anglophones. Despite these differences, most Christian African migrants are regular church goers and have found their way to the empty, old colonial churches still remaining from the French Protectorate era. In the Tunisian capital just as in other smaller cities, the new migrants have slipped into a pre-existing religious network, and revivified and deeply changed it through new religious rituals and a new social involvement, especially since the war in neighboring Libya and the arrival of many refugees.

In this paper I will describe how this new sub Saharan African religious activity in Tunisia implies transformation of material ritual space as well as a change of perception of black Africans and of Christianity as the religion of the colonial power.

Panel W016
Space, place and religious rituals in the context of migration (EN, FR)