March, 2015 archive

CfP: Betwixt and Between: The History of Identity and Status Negotiation Across the Sahara (African Studies Association 2015 Meeting)

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

This panel examines the ways in which various forms of identity have historically been constructed and used to negotiate social status in the Sahara and on its northern and southern fringes. These forms of identity include religion, race and ethnicity, and gender—and have been complicated over the millennia by migrations throughout the region, both forced and voluntary. The migrations, driven by trade, imperialism, transhumant pastoralism, and environmental change, have resulted in several social fabrics of great diversity.

While diversity can be a source of strength, the societies in and around the Sahara have historically had great difficulty in achieving social and political cohesion. Some of the causes for this political instability arise from the physical environment and the mobile character of camel and cattle pastoralists, but others derive from a history of slavery and other forms of subordination imposed through physical violence. Yet even when a status was originally imposed through an act of violence, it could not be maintained exclusively through those means, but rather also included various forms of cultural interaction, social coercion and negotiation. The papers in this panel examine the history of some of the negotiated relationships in this region in order to illuminate some of the current social and political conflicts.

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