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Crossing ontological borders: the Sahara Desert as a site of encounter, memory and identity 
Valerie Nur (University of Bayreuth)
Amina Zarzi (University of Oxford)
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Mohamed Bakhit (University of Khartoum)
Language and Literature (x) Decoloniality & Knowledge Production (y)
Philosophikum, S84
Friday 2 June, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

While the Sahara desert has long been projected as empty, it is instead a site where people, places, and ideas are interconnected in manifold ways. This panel seeks to explore how nomads, traders, authors, and scientists direct toward the desert that seems to hold the promise of a better future.

Long Abstract:

The Sahara Desert has fueled the imaginaries of Medieval Arab travelers as well as Western explorers since the Roman expeditions. However, the theme of the desert has long been limited to the straitjacket of exotic colonial tropes and imperialist lenses, where it is often projected as empty. Judith Scheele (2020) showed us that this is a region where small towns are interconnected with larger ones in manifold ways. Far from being isolated oases, wells and seasonal watercourses form important hubs in transcontinental trade. People living in northern Mali, Niger, Chad, and southern Algeria and Libya, respectively, relate to the desert, where they have close family ties across the border. Furthermore, the Sahara is a site for material, intellectual and linguistic exchange (Jill Jarvis 2018). Many people direct their actions, dreams, and desires toward places in the Sahara that seem to hold promise of a better future than the State capital. However, the Sahara is a volatile and conflict-ridden region where global political interests clash. Thus, scientists, geographers, historians, authors as well as nomadic people navigate between languages and cultures when gravitating towards the Sahara to negotiate their identities, power tropes, political tensions, art and freedom. We seek contributions from all disciplines, in French and English, that prove that the Sahara is a site of convergence and divergence, showing different facets, moving beyond both imaginary and physical boundaries and bringing variables such as language, race, culture, gender, class and religion to be redefined and rethought in African Studies.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Friday 2 June, 2023, -