Coslett, Daniel E. "(Re)branding a (Post)colonial Streetscape: Tunis’s Avenue Habib Bourguiba and the Road Ahead." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 6, Number 1 (pp. 59-96) , edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2017.
Arguably Tunis’s premier public space, the iconic Avenue Bourguiba is today the product of over 150 years of manipulation, regulation and interpretation. Its development can be seen as an early example of thematic place branding, thereby complicating the notion that the widespread phenomenon is an exclusively postmodern and western one. In identifying three potential place-brand labels, this article considers the establishment of the ‘Parisian Colonial’ Avenue by French colonial authorities, its ‘Tunisian Modern’ modification at independence, and its more recent historicist ‘Parisian Global’ refurbishment within the contexts of colonialism, authoritarian governance and globalization. On the eve of the January 2011 revolution, the space reinforced the Ben Ali regime’s maintenance of control and capitalized on the long-since entrenched image of a dual – eastern and western, traditional and modern – postcolonial city. In the revolution’s wake the Avenue has become a reinvigorated public forum with a more complex character. Indeed, while the Avenue’s existing form and function remain emblematic of Tunis’s hybrid postcolonial identity, the thoroughfare now exemplifies the ongoing ‘Arab Spring’. Its cultural brandscape and heritage content, though enhanced with new aspects of democratic empowerment, are likely to endure as the transitioning country continues to participate in the process of globalization.
Keywords: (post)colonialism; Arab Spring; Tunis; architectural/urban history; heritage; place branding