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Displacement and Belonging: Musical consumption and production among Malian Kel Tamasheq Refugees in Burkina Faso

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This article discusses displacement and belonging by analysing the relationship between narratives and practices of consumption and production of music, and the (re)making of individual and collective feeling of belonging in a community of Malian Kel Tamasheq refugees in Burkina Faso. 'Being displaced' has a double-effect on how individual and collective subjectivities express themselves in relation to their feeling of belonging. On the one hand, forced separation from home fosters stronger feelings of attachment to activities perceived as essentially representing the population's traditions; on the other hand, novel contingencies make these cultural factors sometimes redundant or they are challenged by other practices and expressions of values. While taking care not to belittle the physical and psychological deprivations that forced migration entails, this article underlines the importance of transformative or reactionary processes of cultural making within a context of displacement. In doing so, it contributes to the literature on belonging by underlining dynamics of openness and boundedness, of contemporary destabilisation and restabilisation of individual and collective identifications, dynamics mostly visible in "grey zones" of change such as displacement. The first section situates the paper in relation to anthropological studies of forced migration; the second part reviews the literature on belonging, social identity and music. With an introduction to the methods and the context at the time of fieldwork, the third section presents the main findings in the following sub-sections: first, how dynamics of forgetting and remembering spurred by music shape feelings of belonging; and second, how the community conceives the traditional and guitar genres of Tuareg music, and what this entails for dynamics of the music's politicization. By presenting opposite trends (novel musical expressions and interests unrelated to what "truly" Tuareg music is considered to be, and the sporadic irrelevance of Tuareg music) the last section exemplifies how concurrent trends (conserving or transforming) coexist in the making of refugees' subjectivities.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2017

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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