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Murder in Jerba: Honour, Shame and Hospitality among Maltese in Ottoman Tunisia

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Little is known about the sizeable Maltese communities developing along the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean in the mid-nineteenth century, and the extent to which the migrants reproduced Maltese cultural traditions and practices overseas. This article considers this question through a microhistorical analysis of events culminating in the murder of a Maltese woman in the Ottoman Regency of Tunis in 1866. A close reading of transcripts from the interrogation of witnesses and the accused, all members of a Maltese community in Jerba, reveals their shared cultural practices and beliefs surrounding the provision of hospitality, honour and shame. Viewed from this perspective, the curious responses of the witnesses to the murder of their compatriot become meaningful, and the crime is reframed as an honour killing.
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Keywords: Honour; Hospitality; Maltese; Mediterranean; Microhistory; Shame; Tunisia; Violence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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