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A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960 (African Studies) Hardcover – June 6, 2011
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Chouki El Hamel, Arizona State University
"In this provocative and audacious challenge to the most influential paradigm of 'race' in African studies - Mamdani's 'contemporary racism as colonial legacy,' Bruce Hall posits race as an atemporal language imbued with both deep historical meaning and widespread contemporary exigency. Hall brings to his analysis not only the texts of Islamic scholars, but also the voices and views of local Songhay slave-descendants and farmers. Conceptualized in the context of the present, it draws on an enormous interdisciplinary arsenal of languages, methodologies, and theories to engage with an historical concern that spans time and space - namely when, why, and how do people 'chose' racial construction to order their lives? And with what consequences? This is African history at its best because, like the world about which Hall writes, it will take its place in the ongoing dialogue about race that extends well beyond Africa."
Ann McDougall, University of Alberta
"What makes this work so outstanding is that it is for the larger part based on local Arabic source material, which ensures that the local visions of race and society are indeed local and not inferred through an interpretation of French source material ... For many of us, reading this book will mean reconsidering much of what we thought we knew about Islam, history, and society in the Sahel."
Baz Lecocq, Islamic Africa
Top Customer Reviews
Halls very intriguing work covers a time span form 1600 to 1960, demonstrating the "changing structures of ideas about difference" over time; distinguishing between colonial factors and pre-colonial realities. Social and political matters in the Sahel (from Senegal to Chad) are perhaps the most difficult to explain. That geographic band straddles a divide between Arab and non-Arab, Muslim and non-Muslim, pastoralist and agriculturalist and slave and master identities. Defining the source of conflict in this context is all the more difficult.
Racial identity was more than just color. Hall demonstrates this through countless source documents, colonial memoirs and local Muslim scholar writings. Identity was tied to lineage, religious practice and sometimes even, language. In one context, to be Muslim was to be light skinned; in another context Islamic identity had to conform to more "orthodox" practices, boosting credibility through Arabic language acumen. Even the "new Muslims" of Black Africa could be perceived as legitimate slave holdings due to their overt syncretistic practices, tied to pre-Islamic beliefs.Read more ›