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A Society in Motion: the Tuareg from the Pre-Colonial Era to Today

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The Tuareg of the West African Sahara and Sahel have lived for centuries in an environment that has promoted lifestyles adapted to a sparsely populated, arid and harsh climate. Fostering their own variations on nomadism and developing unique societal institutions, the Tuareg forged their societal base through the cultivation of specific livelihoods particular to their environments. However, the arrival of colonial elements in the Tuareg homeland beginning in the late 1800s and the events that have unfolded since have obliged Tuareg lifestyles to adapt to radically different circumstances. This article explores when and in what ways such transformations have occurred and what impacts they have had on Tuareg livelihoods. By focusing on the prevailing means the Tuareg have employed in securing livelihoods before and after the advent of colonialism, the creation of independent states, the devastating droughts of the 1970s and 1980s and the recurrence of rebellions since the 1960s (including the presently unresolved one in Mali), this article endeavours to elucidate the transformation of Tuareg livelihoods over the past century and a half, revealing which practices have faded and which have endured.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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