The vulture without fear
André Chappatte (ZMO Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
Numerous studies stress the neo-liberal interpretation of wealth as sign of blessing that occurs in West Africa. By contrast, this paper explores a mode of minded affluence and moral success existing in contemporary rural Mali which is widely interpreted to be of Mande origin.
Paper long abstract:
I met Ahmed during my PhD fieldwork in 2009. He was a well-known head of family of a rural commune of southwest Mali. His activities were numerous. Besides farming, he gardened. Although he dropped out from school in 9rd year, he was the most educated person in his village; he thus acted as a sort of public writer who helped illiterate villagers with bureaucracy. He was also involved in the committees of various local associations (i.e. cotton producers; health care). Thanks to his social ramification into this rural area he greatly eased my research on local history. Besides being hard-working, his popularity was also based on his enjoyable presence and wise audacity. Ahmed jokingly called himself 'the vulture without fear'; he used to say that 'I do not harm the living; I am just the one who open the feast by eating the eyes of the cadavers!' The youth hailed him 'rasta' due to his dreadlocks and consumption of marijuana. During the weekly market he was an unavoidable figure who played with children, joked with women, respectfully greeted the elders, and warmly welcomed people who came to him for advice. Locals referred to him as a 'noble Muslim' because of his uprightness based on ethics which were interpreted to be of Mande origin. Rather than stressing the neo-liberal interpretation of wealth as sign of blessing that occurs in West Africa, this paper explores a mode of minded affluence and moral success existing in contemporary rural Mali.
Invisible hands: alternate modes of prosperity, wealth and well-being