Couscous and Kugel: Religious Diversity in Tunisia

After many years of flipping through Arabic flashcards and cultivating a passion for all things North African, I finally had the chance to spend the fall semester of 2012 abroad in Tunisia. I've been studying with SIT Study Abroad and living with a host family in Tunis. After anti-American protests at the U.S. embassy in Tunis led to four deaths, however, I've been evacuated to Toulouse and will now be carrying out the semester in France.

Along with more conventional classroom learning, I am completing an independent research project focused on religious minority communities in Tunisia and the Tunisian diaspora communities. Although Sunni Muslims compose 98% of Tunisia' population, the country also has very culturally (if not numerically) significant Jewish and Christian populations. I hope to examine how the Jews of Tunisia fit into the nation's developing national identity in the wake of last year's "Arab Spring," and what their role might be under Tunisia's new democratic constitution and government system.

It's going to be a semester filled with plenty of adventures, and I hope you'll stay tuned for all sorts of stories.

Thank you!

Sarah

Location

Tunis
Tunisia
  • Sarah Forman | December 19th, 2012
    In between my SIT-sponsored study abroad program and a two-week sojourn in Morocco, I’m lucky enough to get to spend a full week exploring southern Spain for a vacation and some language practice. So far, I’ve wandered through Sevilla and Cordóba,...
  • Sarah Forman | December 10th, 2012
    Yesterday afternoon, on the second day of Chanukkah, I went to the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse to eat jelly donuts and light candles (not exactly a North African-style celebration, admittedly). In a classic Sarah Forman move, I misread the...
  • Sarah Forman | November 15th, 2012
    As I’ve been looking through my Facebook newsfeed over the past two weeks (I’m trying to write a paper, so obviously that’s happening quite a bit these days), I’ve been overwhelmed by the many different perspectives my friends are sharing about the...
  • Sarah Forman | November 15th, 2012
    A few weekends ago, my study abroad program sent us up to Paris to get a tast of city life, now that we've spent so much time in Provincial Toulouse.   After spending a rainy Friday morning at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, a large...
  • Sarah Forman | October 20th, 2012
    About a week ago, I moved into my new host family’s apartment in the center of Toulouse. It’s a beautiful home, and my parents are incredibly kind and generous with me (très sympa, in the local parlance). Indeed, they’re quite similar to my real...
  • Sarah Forman | October 20th, 2012
      The first time I kissed a boy on the cheek -- a rushed affair in the hallway in front of my home-room class at the end of the school day -- I spent a solid hour dissecting the incident with my sixth-grade friends. Ohmygosh what did it...
  • Sarah Forman | October 7th, 2012
    This past week has brought yet another Jewish holiday — this one the harvest festival of Sukkot. It’s a biblical celebration that references the 40 years Jews are supposed to have spent wandering through the desert after the exodus from Egypt....
  • Sarah Forman | October 4th, 2012
    “The mission of Brown University is to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the...
  • Sarah Forman | October 1st, 2012
    Jews — even those of the more secular, non-practicing persuasion — don’t usually mess around with Yom Kippur. According to tradition, it’s on this autumn “high holy day” that God makes a final list of who is set to live and die in the coming year,...
  • Sarah Forman | September 22nd, 2012
    “It looks just like the Epcott version!” I excitedly told my dad over the phone. I was describing Toulouse, a lovely city in the south of France where I’ll be living for the next few weeks. After the anti-American protests at the U.S. Embassy in...
  • Sarah Forman | September 19th, 2012
    I tend to subscribe to a relatively liberal and open version of Judaism. Indeed, my services of choice at Brown RISD Hillel involve a few dozen students sitting barefoot in a circle to sing psalms and talk about their feelings on Friday nights. I'm...
  • Sarah Forman | September 14th, 2012
    I was sitting on the train to Tunis this afternoon, hoping to witness some part of the non-violent protests that have been popping up in the city over the last few days in response to an anti-Islamic American film (admittedly, not my smartest move...
  • Sarah Forman | September 12th, 2012
    I woke up with a jarring headline splashed across my computer this morning: U.S. embassy and consulate attacked in Egypt and Libya. One, and then four, Americans confirmed dead. Reports spilled in quickly, and by now the internet is filled with news...
  • Sarah Forman | September 11th, 2012
      I've been in Tunisia barely a week, and already I've attended my second wedding. This time, my host parents' niece is tying the knot, so all the women in her family went to the hamaam -- a bath house -- together to celebrate this afternoon....
  • Sarah Forman | September 8th, 2012
    In Tunisia at least, people tend not to get married during Ramadan — a holy month of communal fasting. But in the weeks immediately following Ramadan, weddings abound. Nearly every evening as I’ve walked along the streets in Sidi Bou Said — a suburb...