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Cultural heritage in South Tunisia. A twinning project promoting interdisciplinary and participatory sciences for an inclusive society.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SfaxForward (Cultural heritage in South Tunisia. A twinning project promoting interdisciplinary and participatory sciences for an inclusive society.)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2023-03-31

The “SfaxForward” Twinning project strengthens the capacities of an innovative academic centre regarding Cultural Heritage: the Maghreb House of the Humanities and Social Sciences (MdMSH) at the University of Sfax.
SfaxForward postulates that Tangible and Intangible Heritage can play a central role in a territory’s transformation and development. By learning to cherish their Cultural Heritage, people can discover who they are and what they share.
The characterization and subsequent participatory management of these common cultural assets should engender a more stable and inclusive society. One that better manages migratory flows thanks to its citizens enjoying greater control over their lives, while constructing and taking possession of their own territory.
SfaxForward’s goal is to position the MdMSH as an international model for mutually beneficial relations between academic and civil society, with Heritage serving as a driving force of regional development and stability. This necessitates establishing the conditions for a fruitful dialogue between researchers and civil society to enlighten public policy and action. Southern Tunisia constitutes the project’s territory-laboratory.
To achieve this goal, SfaxForward develops three types of initiatives: multidisciplinary conferences and workshops on the project’s key themes, thematic schools dedicated to young researchers, and an Observatory of Southern Tunisian Heritage constructed in collaboration with civil society. The Observatory of Southern Tunisian Heritage is fed through the caravans
The extensive interdisciplinary experience of the collaborating French and Belgian Houses of the Humanities and Social Sciences benefits MdMSH in constructing its own unique scientific identity, with an ambition for international excellence.
During the first and the second periodic report SfaxForward project team has organized several activities: two conference, four workshops, a study day, twelve hands-on training, three thematic school, three caravans, a webinar, launching day and two press conferences.

In order to improve the managerial capacities of the MdMSH in European project management, four training session and visits to the support staff members of the CNRS/ULB/ UCA for the project manager were organized.

In order to strengthen scientific capacity in the field of Heritage, mobility grants for young researchers have given the opportunity to masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students to carry out their research and strengthen their skills. In this context, the project has provided five six-month, two two-month and nine one-month mobilities for both sides.

The most important objective of the project was the creation of the Observatory of Southern Tunisian Heritage.
This platform was fed by the data collected by the project team from the different governorates concerned by the project.
The data collected by the SfaxForward project team are :
A rich bibliography that covers the different axes of our project.
An inventory of Civil Society Organizations (Associations, Public Actors, Private Actors), to identify local actors concerned by the Observatory.
Six documentaries that cover the different themes of the project
Interactive maps
Interviews with artisans
Two collective books
8 guides of South Tunisian Heritage
This platform was launched on January 23, 2023 in Sfax.
A post-doctoral student will be recruited to administrate the Observatory's website.
The results obtained and the potential impacts are:
- Favouring research excellence at Sfax University in the field of Heritage Studies
The first impact to be noted at this level is the hosting of the Maison du Maghreb des Sciences de l'Homme (MdMSH) at the University of Sfax and the mobilization of the University of Sfax to push the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to institutionalize it and found its sustainability.
The University of Sfax joined the consortium CIVIS “The consortium of European universities” as a “mirror university”.

The new positioning of the MdMSH as a center of research and excellence on Heritage was clearly noted thanks to the association of renowned international keynotes, specialists in the field in our workshops and conferences. Also, the association of the Staff of partner universities (Sfax, Aix-en-Provence and Nice), officials and regional delegates of culture and tourism and the media (launch day of the Observatory in Sfax), the Governor of the City of Sfax (press conference), UNESCO experts and the representative of the French Embassy (Closing Conference in Nice) have contributed to this purpose.
We must not forget the impact on young researchers who benefited from several training sessions, attended the Thematic Schools and received numerous mobility grants to carry out internships in the centers of the SfaxForward partners.
- Improving the capacity of Sfax University to compete successfully for national, EU and international research funding

Recently, a new project within the framework of the Solidarity Fund for Innovative Projects, Civil Society, Francophonie and Human Development (FSPI) was awarded for a period of two years and for a funding of 600,000 euros, entitled: "HAYA BINA THYNA: Safeguarding and enhancement of the archaeological Heritage of southern Tunisia: the pilot site of Thaenae. Three members of the SfaxForward project are the coordinators: M. Ammar Othman (INP), Salem Mokni (Univ. of Sfax) and Solenn de Larminat (CNRS, AMU).
Another impact of our project in the field of fertilization of cooperation between the members of our consortium was born from the first caravan "JBELI" and precisely from the visit of the site of Younga. Mrs. Agnès Jean jean (Université Côte d'Azur, MSHS Sud-Est, LAPCOS Nice) and Mr. Taoufik Jmiai (Université de Sfax, MdMSH Sfax) decided to launch a research project that crosses sociology and anthropology.

The four internships carried out by our PM, Ms. Kaouthar Karkouda within the three MSH and universities members of the consortium have largely contributed to the acquisition of valuable skills in the field of European project management.

- Impact on the northern-Mediterranean-rim partners
Two PhD launched with professors of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and their Tunisian counterparts on two innovative fields.
- Beyond
The bonds of trust established with the various members of civil society will be capitalized to perpetuate and feed the "Observatory of the Heritage of Southern Tunisia. The closing conference was attended by several representatives of associations of the regions visited by our three caravans who attested to the excellence of the initiatives and activities of SfaxForward and expressed their commitment to enrich the Observatory in documents on Heritage and its initiatives for development.
We remain convinced that this Observatory can and must play a central role in promoting the wealth of southern Tunisia. Also, the 8 tourist guides realized by our experts of the university and the INP injected on the platform are going to play a precious role to impulse cultural tourist circuits and contribute to the sustainable development of these regions. The documents, documentaries, interviews, photos, the directory of associations .... that we have collected will serve to preserve and promote the Heritage, but also serve to support and encourage researchers on Heritage.