Mbororo nomadic pastoralists have fled the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2003 because of atrocities perpetrated against them. Conflict has, in fact, always been a major motor behind nomadism for the Mbororo, along with the quest for pasture. The “normal” severity of Mbororo life, however, has been compounded by the “exceptional” severity caused by the situation in the CAR. This article analyzes the way in which the Mbororo distinguish between the two types of severity, and how these different forms of experienced hardship are accommodated in the pastoralists’ way of life. I show how historical trajectories with conflict and nomadic hardship allow refugee Mbororo to adjust to recurrent hardship by adapting their pathways and livelihood strategies. This illustrates the way in which duress is central in nomadic society.
Mbororo Nomads Facing and Adapting to Conflict in Central Africa
A critique of nomadology with reference to West African Fulbe
This article offers a critique of how the anthropology of pastoral nomadic societies participates in the debate about alternative forms of political organization and emancipation. In the first part, I retrace the roots of the reciprocal and circular influence between anthropology and critical theory, focusing on Deleuze and Guattari's “nomadology” and their reliance on ethnographies of “primitive” and especially nomadic people. Attracted by the spatial autonomy and immanent forms of resistance of nomads, their work nourished the poststructuralist interpretation of power, which in turn influenced contemporary radical political anthropologists. In the second part, I reintroduce ethnographic evidence on pastoral nomads into the discussion. Relying on recent ethnographic evidence of the crisis of nomadism, especially in West Africa, I argue that we should be more prudent in considering interstitial spaces of freedom and resistances as strategies for structurally changing power and for emancipation.
Aref Abu-Rabia, Salman Elbedour and Sandra Scham
The continuing practice of polygynous marriage on the part of the Bedouin of the Negev in Israel is generally seen as resistance to modernity for the sake of maintaining semi-nomadic ways of life. By this logic, the numerous anthropological studies that have shown that polygyny is more widespread among older generations (particularly among men of means) can be explained. In Israel, however, there is an added factor of modernity as enforced by the state and its alien Western values. Recent studies of the Bedouin in Israel have found that polygyny is on the increase among all age groups, regardless of their socio-economic status. This article addresses this seemingly surprising finding, discussing some of the main social and political motivations that underlie the growing prevalence of polygyny as exhibited by the Bedouin in Israel.
Changing Kinship Practices among the Sahrāwī, North Africa
Since the decolonisation period, the Sahrāwī in the western Sahara Desert, North Africa have experienced very specific sociopolitical transformations relating to their millennia-old specialisation in nomadic pastoralism. This article examines the effects of such transformations on particular forms of making kin out of others – milk kinship. Various political circumstances have obliged the Sahrāwī to restructure their customary principles of organisation, possibly diminishing these practices. I question the effects of the loss of milk kin – particularly of milk sons – and the strains on customary matrilocal relations in the survival pressure on kinship relying solely upon ‘blood’ sons to replace these ‘missing men’.
Mobilité des nomades et des sédentaires dans l'espace CEDEAO
Laurence Marfaing and Boubacar Barry
*Full interview is in French
Cet entretien avec Boubacar Barry, historien et professeur d'histoire à l'Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, est en quelque sorte le prolongement d'un échange qui a eu lieu lors d'un colloque sur la mobilité dans l'espace Sahara-Sahel qui s'est tenu en 2011 à Bamako. Depuis ses premières publications dans les années 1970, Boubacar Barry défend l'idée d'une grande Sénégambie des peuples et n'a cessé de travailler sur l'intégration régionale en Afrique de l'Ouest pendant toute sa carrière de chercheur. Son savoir et ses convictions, qui ont inspiré tout le colloque et surtout le panel sur l'intégration régionale dont il fut le président, se retrouvent dans l'interview que Laurence Marfaing a réalisée avec lui quelques mois plus tard et que nous publions ici.
The nomads traditionally studied by ethnographers have a sense of place and territory, a sense of time and of return. This nomadism is thus different from the metaphorical nomadism of our current mobility; that is, “overmodern” (surmoderne) mobility. The meaning of “over” in the adjective “overmodern” or “supermodern” has to be read in the sense that it has in Freud’s and Althusser’s expression “overdetermination,” where it indicates the profusion of causes in a particular phenomenon that complicates the analysis of its effects. Overmodern mobility expresses itself in the movements of population (migrations, tourism, professional mobility), in immediate general communication and in the traffic of products, images, and information. It corresponds to the paradox of a world where we can, at least in theory, make everything without moving and while moving all the time.
The Ottomans were descended from one of the many clans of Turkish nomads who swept westwards from the steppes of Central Asia and decisively defeated the enfeebled Byzantine Empire at the battle of Manzikert in 1071. The tribesmen converted to Islam and then slowly expanded their grip on Byzantine territory in Anatolia.
Biological Concepts and Their Careers beyond Biology
Jan Surman, Katalin Stráner and Peter Haslinger
This article introduces a collection of studies of biological concepts crossing over to other disciplines and nonscholarly discourses. The introduction discusses the notion of nomadic concepts as introduced by Isabelle Stengers and explores its usability for conceptual history. Compared to traveling (Mieke Bal) and interdisciplinary (Ernst Müller) concepts, the idea of nomadism shifts the attention from concepts themselves toward the mobility of a concept and its effects. The metaphor of nomadism, as outlined in the introduction, helps also to question the relation between concepts' movement and the production of boundaries. In this way conceptual history can profit from interaction with translation studies, where similar processes were recently discussed under the notion of cultural translation.
Migration within, from and to the Middle East
Sabine Strasser and Shahnaz R. Nadjmabadi
During the last few decades, the range of key anthropological issues in the Middle East has changed remarkably. Along with relations between tribes and states, nomadism, kinship, ethnic and national conflicts, and tensions caused by oil and water, today’s post-9/11 effects and diversifying patterns of migration have increasingly attracted scholarly interest. Although they have entered the field of migration studies surprisingly late, social anthropologists have recently amplified their participation in this booming research area, particularly in transnational studies.
A circle dance, a fundamental element of many traditional cultures, exists in many parts of the world. Scholars have been fascinated by historical and contemporary, mythical and cultural, ritual and semantic aspects of circle dances. The article discusses the Yakut circle dance, osuokhai, influenced by ancient practices and religious ideas of Eurasian nomads. The article reflects on the historical transformations and on the semantics of the osuokhai.