Book Review

Review of Ghislaine Lydon’s “On Trans-Saharan Trails” by Amanda Rogers

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Ghislaine Lydon’s “On Trans-Saharan Trails” not only fills a gap in knowledge of premodern Saharan economic history, but also bridges the cultural and historical terrains of the region in a manner relevant to a variety of disciplines. Chapter 1 introduces the central argument, presents the methodological premises, and deconstructs predominant myths plaguing the study of Saharan history. Lydon posits that Arabic literacy and Muslim religious institutional frameworks enabled the success of trans-Saharan trade despite the lack of shared currency and unified state systems, allowing for the cultivation of trust-based relationships between Muslims and Jews in a “paper economy of faith” that facilitated commercial transfers across wide distances (p. 3). The text focuses on nineteenth-century Wad Nun, a regional network of traders whose caravans circulated throughout the areas of northern and western Africa, today encompassing Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, and Morocco.

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Book Review: Benjamin Claude Brower, ‘A Desert Named Peace: The Violence of France’s Empire in the Algerian Sahara, 1844-1902′

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Through the study of French violence in Algeria, the author situates his work in the broader historiography of colonial violence. He argues that violence is not a singular phenomenon but one with a complex logic that manifests itself in many forms and thus, it needs to be addressed from multiple angles. This same complexity applies to responses to colonial violence that cannot always be simplified into mere acts of anti-colonial resistance. By establishing an overarching paradigm in which the perpetuators of colonial violence and of Algerian responses to it are considered as “actors,” the author offers a rich and sophisticated analysis that moves beyond the simplified dichotomies that usually characterize studies of colonial violence and anti-colonial resistance. –– Review by Amal Ghazal for H-Net: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=30418

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