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University of Pennsylvania (1980)

THE DJERBAN DIASPORA : A TUNISIAN STUDY OF MIGRATION AND ETHNICITY

WILDER, MARGARET PRICE

Titre : THE DJERBAN DIASPORA : A TUNISIAN STUDY OF MIGRATION AND ETHNICITY

Auteur : WILDER, MARGARET PRICE

Université de soutenance : University of Pennsylvania

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 1980

Résumé
A diaspora is an ethnic group in dispersal. It arises through migration, and it persists from one generation to the next as long as a sense of common identity is preserved, setting the diaspora members apart from the host society where they reside and binding them to each other, at home and abroad. This case study of the Djerban diaspora examines the conditions which led to the emergence of the diaspora, the means of recruiting members into the diaspora, the basis of its social organization, the conditions which enabled it to thrive and those which appear to be leading to its demise.^ Djerba is an island near the coast of southern Tunisia. It has been able to support a densely settled rural population through considerable investment in cisterns and deep wells, through the development of craft specializations, and through emigrant commerce. The poverty of Djerba’s resources combined with its strategic location with respect to several traditional trading networks have made participation in the Djerban diaspora an integral part of being Djerban. In fact, immigrants from the arid south of Tunisia are able to acquire Djerban identity through land ownership in Djerba and shop ownership abroad.^ The population of Djerba is heterogeneous, including Christian and Jewish merchants and artisans as well as Muslim agriculturalists. The Muslims include recent immigrants as well as longtime residents, and they are divided between two major sects, Ibadi and Maliki, and two languages, Berber and Arabic. In addition, there are a number of discrete social identities which structure the population on the basis of origin and status. The resulting groupings are defined by endogamy, and they are dependent on one another for goods and services.^ Kinship and marriage are the basis of social organization among Djerbans within the local community at home and in the diaspora. A regular pattern of emigration and return enables them to maintain their interests in Djerba despite their participation in the diaspora, and the maintenance of ’stranger’ status abroad keeps them from being absorbed into the host society.^ The data for this study were collected using the techniques of participant observation and open-ended interviews over a period of twenty months. The focus is a single agnatic descent group which is co-resident in Djerba and has been involved in the diaspora in five different countries : Turkey, Egypt, Algeria and France as well as Tunisia. Social processes such as immigration to Djerba, the acquisition of land and Djerban identity, and the creation of new sites in the diaspora are examined within the genealogical framework over a number of generations, and these data are supplemented by archival and other census materials as well as secondary materials.^ In conclusion, the Djerban diaspora has thrived in the context of empire, developing new specializations and new locations in response to policy changes in the Ottoman Empire and French North Africa. However, policies associated with the emergence of independent nation states threaten the diaspora by restricting the movements of its members, placing limitations on their commercial activities and defining them as foreigners. Participation in the diaspora is no longer the most effective means of social advancement in Djerba, for the old elite of merchan

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