Jessica Gerschultz’s Decorative Arts of the Tunisian École maps out a matrix in which highbrow art, artisanal production, and the state worked together to elevate the decorative arts in postindependence Tunisia. At the center of this matrix was a new generation of young Tunisian women who could be integrated into Tunisian society through a modernized version of the artisanal work of their mothers and grandmothers, especially weaving. Anglophone scholars have devoted considerable attention to the “civilizing mission,” which offered the ideological rationale for France’s colonial projects. Less attention has been paid to how postindependence regimes took up some of the same imperatives, directed toward their own populations. Gerschultz examines these dynamics.

This world of state-supported art and artisanry faced both inward at Tunisian society and outward to the broader region. The École de Tunis was initially founded to...

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