Tuareg Moving Global
Socio-Anthropological Aspects of Saharan Life in Transition

From May 31 to June 2, 2007 Anja Fischer and I have organized an international workshop on the contemporary Tuareg society. Going beyond traditional topics and getting rid of the historical and colonial burden, we wanted to stress recent multidimensional transformation processes which concern, strike, affect or even attack the Saharan population of nomads, residents and “borderliners1„.

  • Are Tuareg “moving global“?
  • How does their life in transition look like?
  • What does globalization mean for a tribal society spread over several countries, influenced by European, African and Arabian thoughts and posed a gateway between Maghreb and Sahel?

By conjoining international Anthropologists we achieved a fruitful assemblage of young ambitious junior researchers and well established seniors. We intended pooling together our knowledge, fitting together several fragments of information and exchange our ideas to elicit new approaches to stress recent multidimensional transformation processes in which the Saharan population is embedded today.

The conference contributions have been compiled in an edited volume:

Tuareg Society within a Globalized World. Saharan Life in Transition
Anja Fischer & Ines Kohl (eds.)
Publisher: I.B.Tauris Academic Studies
London / New York
320 pages
ISBN: 9781848853706

The Tuareg (Kel Tamasheq) are an ancient nomadic people who have inhabited the Sahara, one of the most extreme environments in the world, for millennia. In what ways have the lives of the Tuareg changed, and what roles do they have, in a modern and increasingly globalized world? Here, leading scholars explore the many facets of contemporary Tuareg existence: from transnational identity to international politics, from economy to social structure, from music to beauty, from mobility to slavery.

The ancient ways of the Tuareg were largely uninterrupted until the arrival of the colonial powers during the nineteenth century. Colonial forces divided traditional Tuareg territory across five separate new countries, causing profound changes in the social, political and economic structure of the Tuareg. The Tuareg today continue to face the risk of marginalisation within national and international politics. At the same time, the Tuareg are seen as a link between the Arab and African worlds, and their familiarity with the Sahara makes them a port of call for African migrants traversing the desert to reach Europe.

This book is the first comprehensive study of the Tuareg today, exploring the ways in which the Tuareg themselves are ‘moving global’ – and increasingly switching between nomadic and urban, more sedentary, living. While the lives of the Tuareg are transformed in an increasingly globalized world, they show themselves to be a people linked by their creative abilities to adapt and interact with the world around them.

This book provides a comprehensive portrait of Saharan life in transition, presenting an important new theoretical approach to the anthropology and history of the region. Dealing with issues of mobility, cosmopolitanism, and transnational movements, this is essential reading for students and scholars of the history, culture and society of the Tuareg, of nomadic peoples, and of North Africa more widely.


Acronyms and Abbreviations
Terminology and Transcription
1. Tuareg Moving Global: An Introduction: Ines Kohl and Anja Fischer

2. Research and Nomads in the Age of Globalization: Anja Fischer
3. Tuareg Networks: An Integrated Approach to Mobility and Stasis: Alessandra Giuffrida
4. Tuareg City Blues: Cultural Capital in a Global Cosmopole: Baz Lecocq

5. Foreign Cloth and Kel Ewey Identity: Gerd Spittler
6. Genesis and Change in the Socio-political Structure of the Tuareg: Dida Badi
7. Tuareg Trajectories of Slavery: Preliminary Reflections on a Changing Field: Benedetta Rossi

8. The Price of Marriage: Shifting Boundaries, Compromised Agency and the Effects of Globalization on Iklan Marriages: Annemarie Bouman
9. Debating Beauties: Contested and Changing Female Bodily Aesthetics of Fatness among the Tuareg: Susan Rasmussen
10. Libya, the ‘Europe of Ishumar’: Between Losing and Reinventing Tradition: Ines Kohl
11. The Ishumar Guitar: Emergence, Circulation and Evolution, from the Diasporic Performances to the World Scene: Nadia Belalimat
12. Between the Worlds: Tuareg as Entrepreneurs in Tourism: Marko Scholze

13. Ambiguous Meanings of Ikufar and their Role in Development Projects: Sarah Lunacek
14. Resisting Imperialism: Tuareg Threaten US, Chinese and Other Foreign Interests: Jeremy Keenan

Notes on the Contributors


  1. The anthropological term borderliner (border-crosser) designates something entirely different from the borderline-syndrome in psychiatry. The psychiatric technical term refers to certain pathological symptoms in individuals. The anthropological term, on the other hand, designates groups of people, who live on state borders and who specialize in benefiting from crossing these borders on a regular basis. (Kohl, Ines 2011: Grenzgängerinnen. In: Kreff, F., Knoll, E-M., Gingrich, A. (eds.): Lexikon der Globalisierung. Bielefeld: transcript)


‘[This] is a book that comes at the right time, when the need to rethink Tuareg culture – and other African cultures – in their wider (now ‘global’) context has become widely and deeply felt in African Studies. It embodies vast amounts of first-class fieldwork and deploys insightful conceptual frames in the exploration of the empirical evidence. …I believe it will appeal not only to established academics, but also to students – and not only to those specialising in the study of the Tuareg.’
Dr. P.F. de Moraes Farias, Honorary Senior Fellow, Centre of West African, Studies, University of Birmingham

‘By focusing on the transitions of Tuareg societies whose “classical“delimitations by ethnographers and anthropologists become more and more doubtful… [this book] actually takes into account the contemporary reality of the Tuareg who live in the borderlands between Mali, Niger, Algeria and  Libya. In this context they want to explore the consequences of the various aspects of globalisation, and, the various ways the Tuareg respond to and cope with growing influences from the outside.
Dr. Georg Klute, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Bayreuth




Terminated conference and publication project

FWF, Austrian Research Fund
Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA), Austrian Academy of Sciences (AAS)

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna
OMV Business Unit Libya
Publication Grant Number:
Mag. Dr. Ines Kohl and Mag. Dr. Anja Fischer