This article examines the gender and sexuality politics in early nineteenth-century Tunisia, with particular reference to the healing rituals performed by the diasporic sub-Saharans and the attempts at disciplining them by Muslim religious scholars. It does so through an in-depth analysis of a 1808 naṣīḥa penned by the West African scholar Aḥmad b. al-Qāḍī al-Timbuktāwī, where the Tunisian rulers are urged to ban the religious practices of the sub-Saharan populations—mainly slaves—which are deemed un-Islamic. In addition to close-reading the naṣīḥa, I contextualise and compare it with other texts and literature to ‘unveil’ not only al-Timbuktāwī’s discourse but also the history of enslaved sub-Saharans and the larger social, cultural and political history of early nineteenth-century Tunisia. I argue that al-Timbuktāwī’s request to ban the rituals was religiously motivated, but it also aimed at preventing the leadership and sexual intimacy which the rituals allegedly promoted, and I investigate whether such gender and sexual practices were perceived as disrupting the domestic Tunisian social and sexual order (or not).
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.