Worldwide religion represents a significant component in most traditional and modern societies, democracies, and cultures, and forms an organizing, inspiring, legitimizing, and social power that have gained an unexpected anthropological and political importance during the last few centuries. Therefore, religious institutions and organizations morphed into a crucial identity factor that generates cohesion among people and every so often triggers tension, agitation, and violence. Religion forms an integral part of the social fabric that has a considerable influence on other social institutions and groups. It is not a particular moment in history since it belongs to the nature of man that strives to secure a common good, however, through time, this area of dynamism, socialization, belonging, and collective emotions has morphed into a historical and geopolitical force. Religion represents a central issue for individual and collective identity even in modern societies in which agnostic thought increasingly dominates the social and political sphere. The separation of religion from public policy has not abolished its involvement in the political and social decision-making processes, and even if secularization increasingly marks urban and modern civilizations, many people still show a great curiosity and inquisitiveness acquisitiveness for spiritual and religious experiences. This social body plays influential roles in matters of personal, collective identity and societal activities and lays down the rules governing life in society. It is not only the reflection or emanation of society, but rather its foundation that offers stability, solidarity, integration, unity, and cohesion.
In the last decades, religion started occupying a growing position in museums, and religious object and lived experience have gained importance in the new museology. The pairing of both agencies triggered various challenges, which required a pluri-disciplinary dialogue to bridge the gap between spiritual aspects and aesthetic claims. Tunisia endures a mismanagement of the issues of religion in public institutions, and a large section of the population is not acquainted with religious otherness. My research aims at understanding the reasons for concealing religious otherness and plurality from public view in social, political, cultural, and museum arenas.
This study explores Tunisian museums’ slight interpretation of religious matter and their compressed conception that primarily covers a patrimony’s tangible aspect and neglects its intangible dimension. It also points out the Tunisian museums’ crisis in terms of displaying religion and attempts to identify the causes of public disinterest. It investigates new methods and approaches to reconcile religion, provide tangible encounters with sacred tradition, and spark the interest of Tunisian museumgoers in religion.
My thesis tackles the issue of the musealization of religious objects, the concern of sacredness in the museum arena, and tries to identify the points of failure in terms of religious display policy and consistency with museological requirement. It shares an accurate insight into Tunisian exhibits’ negative and positive points, sensitive areas of display, and gives details of visitors’ experience, criticism, and requirement.
The aim is to examine the efficiency of a museum of religion in challenging monolithic and polemical perception of religion and the futility of resisting the disclosure of religious plurality and multiculturalism. This study reviews and considers a new approach of displaying religion through the juxtaposition of religious objects and the mixing of religious, historical, ethnological, and modern artistic registers. It also proposes an architectural, museological, museographic, scenographic, and thematic conception of a museum of religion and gives a workable methodological and practical proposal of a museum of religion in line with scientific requirement of the study of religion and museology.