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Global Media and Local Verbal Art Representations of Northern Malian Tuareg

  • Susan J. Rasmussen

This article offers a critique of widely disseminated portrayals of northern Malian Tuareg by outside media, which tend to portray all Tuareg as warriors and criminals and to project pseudo-scientific concepts of “race” onto relationships between Tuareg and other Malians, recalling the now discredited colonial “Hamitic Myth” in Rwanda. It also analyzes local oral historical accounts that present themes of Mali as both a protected fortress and welcoming crossroads, a country that both resists and absorbs intruders, and that also express concepts of identity based on language, culture, and flexible social affiliation. The article is based partly on interviews with internationally known local musicians who function as mediating “third voices,” and concludes with a discussion of wider implications of these findings for notions of voice, authority, and the mutual construction of ideas of Africa.

Les médias extérieurs tendent à décrire les Touaregs comme des guerriers et des criminels et à projeter des concepts pseudo-scientifiques de “race” sur les relations entre les Touaregs et les autres Maliens, rappelant le “mythe hamitique” au Rwanda. Ce papier analyse les récits historiques oraux locaux qui présentent les thèmes du Mali comme une forteresse protégée et un carrefour accueillant, un pays qui résiste et absorbe les intrus et qui exprime aussi des concepts d’identité fondés sur la langue, la culture et l’affiliation sociale flexible. Cet article est basé en partie sur des entretiens avec des musiciens locaux connus à l’échelle internationale qui fonctionnent comme des “troisièmes voix” médiatrices et conclut avec une discussion des implications plus larges de ces résultats pour les notions de voix, d’autorité et la construction mutuelle des idées en Afrique.

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African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
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