Translocality in the Sahel-Sahara Region
The project focuses on the phenomena of translocality that link
the Sahara and the Sahel region with the Maghreb and coastal West
Africa. It deals with a space that can be perceived historically
as a unit but is rarely treated as such in contemporary research.
Two of the three sub-projects (3.1. and 3.2.) are concerned with
migrations of a modern kind that bring members of mobile pastoral
groups the Fulbe-Wodaabe from Niger and the Tuareg from
Mali and Niger to several countries of West and North Africa,
and in particular to urban centres. The third sub-project is devoted
to the journeys of Senegalese traders, pilgrims, craftsmen, and
fishermen to Mauritania and Morocco. All sub-projects focus on
an analysis of the interaction between migrants and the urban
population, and the social phenomena produced by this interaction.
The nature and social relevance of difference and foreignness
are a key issue in the investigation. The general idea is that
foreignness can constitute a basis for fixed status relationships
and exploitation but it can also result in relatively open and
The comparative scheme uniting the sub-projects 3.1. and 3.2.
is built on the assumption that the traditional mobile life of
these pastoralists could equally be described as translocal,
in as much as it is characterized by their continual movement
between and participation in different socio-cultural spheres,
and that this original translocality influences their modern migrations
and the forms of exchange they establish with their urban vis-à-vis.
The sub-project 3.3. is principally concerned with the prevailing
forms of sociability in the relationships between migrants and
local populations, and more specifically with the question of
whether memories of slavery, on the one hand, and the resentment
resulting from the collaboration of sub-Saharan Africans in the
colonial conquest of Mauritania and Morocco, on the other, have
an effect on these forms.
Modern nomadism. The Fulbe-Wodaabe of Central Niger in West
African urban centres
Important coastal centres such as Abidjan and Dakar are the primary
destination of the modern migrations of the Wodaabe, who form
part of the Fulbe population dispersed all over West Africa. The
research project is based on the assumption that Wodaabe migrants
market their "foreignness in these urban centres, that
is, that the specific quality of the products and services offered
there lies basically in the fact that the Wodaabe originate from
a foreign and dangerous, albeit blessed hinterland. Our hypothesis
is that foreignness understood as a social and cultural
quality is constitutive of the relations between migrants
and the coastal population, and that this state of foreignness
cannot simply be overcome by permanent contact but will be maintained
and, as it were, institutionalized. A remarkable specificity of
the Wodaabe travels is the fact that they are first and foremost
a female affair. The nature and efficiency of female social networks
and the question of whether there are distinctive female forms
of communicating foreignness are central aspects of the research.
Modern Tuareg Migrations
The project deals with the present-day migrations of the Tuareg
Mali and Niger. Since the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s and
the rebellions of the 1990s, migration as refugees or as migrant
labourers has become an integral part of the Tuareg way of life.
Long-distance trade, a time-honoured Tuareg occupation, was modernized
during that period and extended in range. Although most drought
and war refugees remained close to home, both economic migration
and trade extend far beyond the Tuareg lands to the coastal cities
of West Africa and the Maghreb, or the Arab peninsula. This research
aims to describe the social and cultural transformation and adaptation
of Tuareg society in these newly-inhabited spaces, as well as
the consequences of such change for the communities at home. A
further question will be how internal and external relations are
shaped in the context of the wider West African and Maghrebin
diaspora. How and to what extent the 'traditional' Tuareg pastoral
nomadic identity influences modern migrations, and how far they
consequently differ from those of their sedentary neighbours remains
to be seen.
Appropriation of space and dynamics of relationships: Senegalese
in Morocco and Mauritania
The main focus of this research project is the constitution of
translocal social spaces between Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco
by Senegalese traders, pilgrims and craftsmen during the 20th
Recent research conducted on translocality shows how economic,
social, and cultural spaces are created by transborder contacts.
This project attempts to view the process from the perspective
of Senegalese agents. The primary concern is the relevance of
sociability to the constitution, reinforcement and dissolution
of these translocal spaces.
Sociability in this context refers to different forms of interaction
produced by both a sense of togetherness and of resentment, the
origins of which lie in the memories of slavery and the role played
by sub-Saharan Africans at the time of the French colonial conquest
of Morocco and Mauritania in the 20th century.