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Women, Gender, and the Palace Households in Ottoman Tunisia

Women, Gender, and the Palace Households in Ottoman Tunisia

This examination of Tunisia’s ruling family between 1700 and 1900 reveals the significance of the palace and the crucial political and economic roles women played in the family’s relationship with the imperial government.

September 2013
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287 pages | 6 x 9 | 12 photos, 7 line drawings, 2 maps, 7 tables |

In this first in-depth study of the ruling family of Tunisia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kallander investigates the palace as a site of familial and political significance. Through extensive archival research, she elucidates the domestic economy of the palace as well as the changing relationship between the ruling family of Tunis and the government, thus revealing how the private space of the palace mirrored the public political space.

“Instead of viewing the period as merely a precursor to colonial occupation and the nation-state as emphasized in precolonial or nationalist histories, this narrative moves away from images of stagnation and dependency to insist upon dynamism,” Kallander explains. She delves deep into palace dynamics, comparing them to those of monarchies outside of the Ottoman Empire to find persuasive evidence of a global modernity. She demonstrates how upper-class Muslim women were active political players, exerting their power through displays of wealth such as consumerism and philanthropy. Ultimately, she creates a rich view of the Husaynid dynastic culture that will surprise many, and stimulate debate and further research among scholars of Ottoman Tunisia.


List of Illustrations

Note on Transliteration



Part I. Family Foundations of Ottoman Rule

Introduction. Families, Households, and Palace Women in Early Modern Court Culture

Chapter 1. Family and the Politics of Marriage: The Early Ottoman Era in Tunis (1574–1756)

Part II. Family and Provincial Government, 1756–1840

Chapter 2. The Prosperous Palace

Chapter 3. Women's Worlds

Chapter 4. Beyond Bardo

Part III. Nineteenth century Transformations

Chapter 5. The Constitution, Financial Reform, and the Modern Family

Chapter 6. Inventing Dynastic Traditions: Family Politics of French Colonialism


Appendix 1. Genealogies

Appendix 2. Annual Expense Registers of the Palace Treasury

Appendix 3. Income and Expenditures of the Bey






Amy Aisen Kallander is Assistant Professor of Middle East History and affiliated faculty with the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Syracuse University.


“[Kallander] deftly demonstrates that females of the household fit closely and naturally into practices that cemented Husaynid legitimacy. In a word, women, their public work and family relationships were integral to the longevity of Husaynid government.”
International Journal of Islamic Architecture


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca
UPCC/Project Muse