Insights into the concept of `face` in the Tunisian culture

Abdelalim Bouajjar


This paper, basically, aims at conceptualizing a definition of the face in Tunisian culture. It, also, endeavours to draw a comparison between Tunisians` understanding of the face and that of Goffman`s, and it investigates whether the Tunisian face shares certain features with other Arab cultures, namely the Palestinian one. The study relies on a sample of Tunisian participants, from different regions of the country, responding to a quantitative and qualitative questionnaire about the different uses and interpretations of facial expressions in interaction. Based on the analysis of Tunisian participants` responses, this study maintains, first, that face in Tunisia is, cogently, linked with the notion of embarrassment: the happening or the non-happening of embarrassment. The first is equated with face loss, whereas the second is with maintaining face. This study, also, reveals that although Tunisians` understanding of face is similar to that of Goffman and to that of the Palestinian culture, its personal and lent-face characteristics are unique and Tunisian-specific.


Face, face expressions, social interaction, embarrassment

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