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[2009/07] Modern Nomads, Cosmopolitans, or Vagabonds?
Mobility, Territoriality, Ideology and Belonging among Ishumar (Tuareg)

Projektleitung: Ines Kohl & Akidima Effad
Projektlaufzeit: 01.07.2008 - 31.07.2009
FWF (Projekt P20790-G14)

The aim of the project was an analysis of the recent transnational Tuareg society - called Ishumar - and their strategies of mobilitiy, belonging and territoriality in the central Sahara. I wanted to clarify the question: What is the future of (ex-) nomads? Are they becoming settled citizens or disrooted borderliners? Can we label these modern nomads as cosmopolitans, or are they just to call vagabonds by their ruptured life whicht characterized through transnational mobility?

The analyses of the last 15 years of the development of the Ishumar-movement (teshumara) clarified, that Ishumar are both: Cosmopolitans and vagabonds. Moreover a certain part of the Ishumar society has to be understood as an intellectual elite, characterized by transnational movements, arrangements and negotiations with national states, and multifarious contacts to neighbours and Europeans. This new elite has nothing in common with the traditional political, economic and religious “excellence” and is no longer ascribed to the traditional Tamasheq-term “anefren, the one who is chosen”, but to the term “anafrag, the one who is able or capable”. In recent times, the leaders of the rebellion, the guitarists and the few NGO activists embody the new elite. Only their multiple forms of mobility granted them their cosmopolitic way of life and their capability of knowing of human rights and fight for them in the recent insurgency on uranium and justice in Northern Niger.
The Ishumar-movement incorporates all kinds of moving: It can be described as partly in cycles, partly situational, sometimes seasonal, sometimes permanently, but always irregularly. So I would suggest calling the Ishumar with James Cliffords term (1992) a “travelling culture”. The Ishumar embody a multiple travelling culture with multiple citizenships, multiple places of residence, and multiple strategies of moving. For the Ishumar moving is the rule. But their multiple movements are only possible due to very sophisticated strategies: Desert knowledge and know-how, the use of kinship affiliation and the benefit of multiple citizenships. Those strategies allow the Ishumar to pursuit their transnational movements, which are part of their culture and the only way of escaping their prison of political marginalization released by French colonialism, corrupt African regimes and still widely supported by European politics.

Published results:

Kohl, Ines (2010): Modern Nomads, Vagabonds, or Cosmopolitans? Metaphoric Reflections on Contemporary Tuareg Society, in: Journal of Anthropological Research, University of New Mexico

Kohl, Ines (2010): Saharan „Borderline“-Strategies: Tuareg Transnational Mobility. In: Grätz, Tilo, Mobility, transnationalism and contemporary African societies, Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Kohl, Ines (2010): Qaddafi ♥ Tuareg: Libyens Tuareg zwischen Stillstand und Aufbruch? In: Ruprechtsberger, Erwin & Edlinger, Fritz (Ed.): 40 Jahre Volksherrschaft in Libyen: Rückblick – Gegenwart – Vorschau, Promedia: Wien

Kohl, Ines (2009): Beautiful Modern Nomads. Bordercrossing Tuareg between Niger, Algeria and Libya , Reimer: Berlin

Kohl, Ines (2009): Nel cerchio dello ksad: In cerca di un futura a Ghat, in: Nigrizia, september 2009, p 51-53, Verona

Kohl, Ines (2008): Email vom Ende der Welt, GEO 10/2008, p 18