Beya Abidi-Belhadj: Transforming and Interpreting the Kasbah: The Negotiation of Centrality in Tunis. [Abstract]

The kasbah has been considered the main place of power in Tunis since the Middle Ages. Its urban structure was stabilised during the Ottoman era. Since then, the governmental functions of the kasbah have always been confirmed: many ministerial functions are carried out in the buildings around its central square, located at the top of the old city of Tunis. This space is perceived as morphologically separate from the medina and functionally dedicated to issues related to the central sphere. This contrasts with the space of the medina, which was historically regulated by the local civic sphere. In spite of this apparent opposition of functions, the purpose of this study is to reflect on the nature of the kasbah as a public place, as a monumental and architectural expression of a negotiated form of power and centrality, and finally, yet importantly, as an urban district participating in ordering the medina. It is where local urban functions such as markets and mosques were located. It structured the civic dimension embodied by the Beldi-s, a group of urban notables entrusted with most responsibilities in local institutions as professions (guilds, markets, trade), confessional communities, neighbourhoods, and the city as a whole. In contrast with interpretations based on a dichotomic vision of urban morphologies and functions, the aim here is to highlight the intertwining of spaces and the importance of connections between political and commercial centralities in everyday practices, an angle of interpretation that invites nuance into discussions on the nature of centrality.

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