Lehigh University
Lehigh University


The conflicting aspirations of Mali’s Tuareg tribesmen

Bruce Whitehouse, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, has been interviewed extensively about his research into Mali and its people.

Mali, a landlocked country in West Africa, had never received much attention in the media until January 2012, when semi-nomadic tribesmen called the Tuareg launched a revolution against the central government.

Three months later, the Tuaregs’ National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) ended its campaign and proclaimed the independence of Azawad, the region making up the large, sparsely-settled northern half of Mali.

The situation became more complicated in March 2012 when the Malian military seized power in a coup, and last summer, when Islamist rebels, including members of an Al-Qaeda group, began fighting the Tuaregs, took control of much of Azawad and imposed sharia law. Earlier this month, the French military launched Operation Serval in an effort to defeat the Islamist rebellion in Azawad.

Bruce Whitehouse, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, has studied Mali and its people for years, and he spent the 2011-12 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Whitehouse was in Bamako with his family during the military coup in March, and he was able to detail what was happening.

Earlier this week, Whitehouse spoke with Robert Siegel, host of NPR’s All Things Considered, about the Tuareg, their religion, their long history of resisting central rule, and the role they have played in Mali’s recent history. Click here to listen to the interview and read the transcript.

Whitehouse’s 2012 book, Migrants and Strangers in an African City: Exile, Dignity, Belonging, stems from ethnographic research he conducted in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo. The book was named one of 2012’s “Best (Overlooked) Books” by the Australian current affairs and cultural journal InsideStory.

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013

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