“She is not an ʿAbid” Meanings of Race and Blackness in a Community of Slave Descendants in Southern Tunisia

Marta Scaglioni


The ʿAbid Ghbonton are a black community of slave descendants who live in southern Tunisia next to their former masters to whom they were tied under a fictive familiar bond and for whom they performed jobs occasionally for free in the post-abolition period. Nowadays, they are no longer professionally exploited, but continue to suffer from socio-economic discrimination. Being racialized as blacks because of their lack of Arab origin, they are not only relegated to socially inferior jobs but also subject to widespread racism, epitomized by the strict social rules that prohibit marriages between former masters and former slaves. Tracing the history of racialized slavery and post-abolition dynamics in Tunisia, this article analyzes the socio-cultural meanings that the ʿAbid Ghbonton accord to race, colour and blackness. It shows how race and colour attribution have changed over time among the ʿAbid Ghbonton and argues that the recently occurring normalization of mixed marriages has given a renewed importance to physical factors relative to genealogy.


race, slavery, blackness, slave descendants, Tunisia

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14672/ada20201627117-140


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