"Staying Tuareg'':exile and narratives of fatherhood among Tuareg refugees from Mali in Niger
(University of Münster)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic material collected between 2012 and 2016 in Niamey, this paper explores practices through which male Tuareg refugees from Mali renegotiate their father status in the face of adverse and often deeply humiliating living conditions in exile.
Paper long abstract:
When I arrived in August 2012 in Niamey for the first stay of my doctoral research, I was struck by the frequency of men' comments on their living conditions in exile. They portrayed themselves as those whose living conditions had turned them into "nothing," aytedim or adinat in bànan, or "zéro" in French. Back home in northern Mali, this term is often used to derogatorily indicate someone's loss of social consideration related or linked to birth. The fact that male refugees used this term so profusely to characterize their own situation in Niamey reflects on their sense of crisis and their perception that exile undermined their male honor (ahalis wan tidit). Men deplored that their respect (semghar) as husbands and father have been undermined as they could no longer live up to cultural expectations of "providing" for their families within their adopted role as head of a household. Conventionally, the man of household, the father, would expect obedience while the mother as well as their children would heed his demands in return for his "providing" for the family. Nowadays, under conditions of exile, the respect and honor that derive from a family father's role as sole provider can no longer be achieved. Accordingly, they feel that they have become "useless" people or "nothing." This paper explores practices through which my male refugee informants renegotiate their father status in the face of adverse, and often deeply humiliating living conditions in exile in Niger.
Continuities and disruptions in 'doing fatherhood' in Africa