The Ghriba in the Island of Jerba (or Djerba) or the re-invention of a shared shrine as a metonym for a multicultural Tunisia

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Abstract

This paper examines the case of the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Jerba (or Djerba) in Tunisia, where a historic Jewish community continues to live alongside the Muslim majority population. The synagogue, like its community, dates back to at least the first century ad and came to international attention in 2002 when it suffered an attack by al-Qaeda.Claims exist for the synagogue being to some degree a shared shrine, and here I draw on approaches both from anthropology and my own discipline of linguistics, more specifically discourse analysis, to consider the reality of such propositions. I will look at actual practice at the shrine, and perspectives on it, as well as the attitudes of those associated with it, including members of local communities, persons involved in the tourist industry, pilgrims, and government spokespersons. My paper will show that although the practice of sharing the shrine of the Ghriba does exist, it is a marginal practice rather than a popular one. I will analyse the convergence of participants, the media, and officials in the construction of the discourse of the Ghriba as a mixed shrine, and draw parallels with nostalgic discourses about multicultural Tunisia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSharing the sacra: the politics and pragmatics of inter-communal relations around holy places
EditorsG. Bowman
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
PublisherBerghahn Books
Pages118-138
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780857454867
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

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