In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Tunisian Jewish female body was subjected to a dramatic fattening process in preparation for marriage. Immediately following the girl’s engagement, her body became the focus of an intense transformative regimen aimed at achieving the aesthetic ideals of dramatic weight gain and “shining and whitening” of the skin. This paper offers a critical reading of the representation of the female body in postcards and travelogues, in descriptions written by members of the Tunisian Jewish community, and in interviews conducted with group members now living in Israel. The meeting of these voices called for a multidimensional examination of central themes including the ideal female body, its boundaries, and transgressions of those boundaries; mechanisms of control; and the complex relationships between honor and shame and between attraction and repulsion. Hence, the full, rounded bodies of Tunisian Jewish brides were sites of transformation where these multiple meanings came together in complex and at times contrasting ways.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.