Accepted Paper:

Imagination, collectivity, and the state: an ethnography of Kel Tamasheq in Bamako  


Giulia Gonzales (University of Turin)

Paper short abstract:

Through an ethnography of rumours, knowledge claims, and daily practices among Malian Kel Tamasheq in Bamako, this paper enquires into the formation of heterogeneous positions in relation to this collectivity's own imagination, the state, and the current political crisis.

Paper long abstract:

In 2012 a Kel Tamasheq-led rebellion expelled the Malian army from the northern regions and proclaimed the independence of the new state of Azawad. Although the latter was short-lived, this outburst sparked an ongoing insecurity in the region, coupled with radicalisations of religious armed groups, fraudulent regional trafficking, and the establishment of foreign forces and the UN mission, MINUSMA, in the country. While peace accords fail to be implemented, in Bamako, the Kel Tamasheq community is caught into (re)framing its position toward the crisis, the state, and its own collectivity. These processes unveil a plethora of heterogeneous positions.

Based on an ethnography of political imaginaries among Kel Tamasheq families, this paper enquires into the formations and normalizations of walls within these communities, mainly molded around affiliations to genealogical lineages and social status. These spaces define co-fragile formations in support of the Malian and/or Azawadian states.

This paper will present, first, Kel Tamasheq's (political, social, and economic) heterogeneous positions, and, second, narratives and practices organising relationships among these groups. In so doing, it asks: How are Kel Tamasheq's internal conglomerations formed, as well as abolished, depending on the context? How does the imagination of a utopic state of Azawad disappear, only to then (re)surface in people's narratives and daily practices? How do discourses and actions reassert the family's, as well as the individual's, positions towards their closest group of reference, the state, and the crisis? And what do all these dynamics tell us about the magmatic creation of co-fragile formations?

Panel Pol02
Imagining and creating walls, utopias, and co-fragile formations