The Last Monument Standing

The Politics of Time in the Tunisian Revolution

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Joachim Ben Yakoub Ghent University

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During the latest uprising in Tunisia, the agitated crowd almost totally destroyed the autocratic monumental landscape. As the provocative ‘Anti-Clock Project’ by visual artist Nidhal Chamekh shows, the strongest element of this landscape was not destroyed; it still stands in the capital today and illustrates how the imbricated strata of the contemporary monumental landscape can be understood as an inherited palimpsest that reveals hegemonic assumptions about the prevailing politics of time. The monumental translation of the new era promoted by the contested Ben Ali regime paradoxically froze the idea that change would facilitate general progress, innovation, modernization and development and guarantee a better future. In this article, we argue that the Clock Tower and the civilization project it materializes, initiated by colonial occupation and upheld by the consecutive postcolonial regimes, does not necessarily warrant a better future. Rather, it continues to restrain political sensibilities in the present time, dismisses historical pasts and withholds alternative futures.

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