Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, University of California / Berkeley

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2000
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign
Mapping the River in Black and White: Race, Servile Labor and the Struggle over Land in Northern Mali, 1894-1946

Race has become the fundamental social and cultural divide in northern Mali during the twentieth century. Racial antagonism between "White" Arabo-Berber pastoral nomads and "Black" sedentary agriculturists has been a constant cause of political and economic instability in the region, and it has led, on several occasions, to full-scale racial war. My dissertation will attempt to uncover the historical reasons that allowed race to emerge as such a powerful force in northern Mali. It is my hypothesis that pre-colonial ideas about race were reworked and given much greater local importance in the early twentieth century as one facet of an often-violent struggle between pastoralists and agriculturists over control of the fertile floodplain of the Niger River. This conflict was triggered by the French colonial occupation of the area, which began in 1894. My research will focus on compiling a series of micro histories of land conflict in the Niger Valley and on the wider discursive project of constructing racial identities in the region. The major sources of the research will be French colonial documents, locally authored Arabic manuscripts, and oral interviews conducted in the Songhay language.