Smugglers and Saints of the Sahara describes life on and around the contemporary border between Algeria and Mali, exploring current developments in a broad historical and socioeconomic context. Basing her findings on long-term fieldwork with trading families, truckers, smugglers and scholars, Judith Scheele investigates the history of contemporary patterns of mobility from the late nineteenth century to the present. Through a careful analysis of family ties and local economic records, this book shows how long-standing mobility and interdependence have shaped not only local economies, but also notions of social hierarchy, morality and political legitimacy, creating patterns that endure today and that need to be taken into account in any empirically-grounded study of the region.
Judith Scheele is post-doctoral research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University. She is a social anthropologist who has conducted extensive fieldwork in Algeria, Mali, and, more recently, Chad. She is the author of Village Matters : Knowledge, Politics and Community in Kabylia, Algeria (2009).
Advance praise :
“The Sahara is neither a romantic land of luxury-laden camel caravans nor a vast empty darkness hiding the likes of al-Qa’ida. Judith Scheele’s Sahara is the most dynamic ’space’ in today’s Africa, one brought alive by ceaselessly expanding and contracting human networks that invest in ‘place’ even as mobility defines ‘community’. Scheele brings us into al-Khalil, the infamous Malian-Algerian-frontier trans-shipment centre where ‘men are men’, virtue non-existent and ‘family-loyalty’ the definition of survival. She introduces us to the multi-national work teams of enormous transport trucks that criss-cross the desert with foodstuffs, cigarettes and cocaine, licit and illicit loads side-by-side, protected by always-present AK-47s. During sixteen months, Scheele … observed, questioned, interviewed … [and] accessed family-held Arabic documents … Scholarship is impressive, arguments convincing ; this is the book many who know the Sahara will wish they had written.” E. Ann McDougall, University of Alberta
“[This] is an informative book based on tireless multisite research in local and colonial archives and among long-distance entrepreneurs, dispersed families and itinerant communities. Scheele approaches Saharan truck stops and oasis towns as dynamic nodes dependent on constant interchange with other nodes that together form a web of ‘Saharan connectivity’. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the region and in carrying out trans-Saharan fieldwork.” Ghislaine Lydon, University of California, Los Angeles