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'Is Pastoralism Dead?' Between Nostalgia, Transmission and Maintenance of the Practice of Transhumant Cattle Herding in Mali

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Following the inscription of Fule transhumance festivals in the Inner Niger Delta (Mali) on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2005, this article, based on several months of ethnographic research, focuses on the nostalgic evocation of changes in the transhumance practices. By working a step aside from the study of the official discussions of heritage, the author examines how these participants, who see a rupture from an idealised past, define this past and in particular maintain it in the discussions and practices of redefinition and revaluation of pastoralism, both for themselves and faced with representatives of the State and international heritage forums. The study of pastoral competitions, a symbol of lost exemplary pastoral work, serves as an example to analyse the debates surrounding the representations of rivalry and honour at the heart of transhumant pastoral practice in this region, as well as the feeling of loss and marginalisation expressed by the Fule cattle owners, reflecting the territorial and land ownership challenges affecting the reclassification of the 'Cultural Space of the yaaral and degal' as a 'Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity'.
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Keywords: Fulani; Inner Niger Delta; UNESCO; nostalgia; pastoral competition

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2016

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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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