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Digitisation: new research on Tuareg refugees – digital publication

When searching for Souleymane Diallo on Google, the first hit will lead you to the national goalkeeper of Mauretania. The footballer is not to be confused with Souleymane Diallo, who is an ambitious and tedious young research fellow at the University of Cologne in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology.

Since 2015, he examines the living conditions under which Tuareg refugees from northern Mali rebuild their lives in the Nigerien diaspora, and how these conditions affect their self-understandings and cultural practices, established status hierarchies, and religious identity formation in the framework of a DFG funded project. The exploration of the Tuareg identity formations and the choice to zone in on two social categories of inferior status Tuareg refugees, subject to consecutive phases of expulsion from Mali, makes this research an ambitious project, complementing scholarly accounts that have been preoccupied with examining historical experiences of noble status of Tuareg groups, and their loss in power and status.

As first example for research fields in anthropology focussing on Africa , his work will be published digitally as well as in print copies through the publishing platform by MAP (Modern Academic Publishing, funded by the University of Cologne and the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich ), in the course of 2017.

Interview by S. Rausch.


Photo: Souleymane Diallo

Souleymane, can you describe what your research is about?

The study research counterbalances an earlier scholarly preoccupation with Tuareg nobility by zoning in on two groups of inferior social status, the Bellah-Iklan and freeborn Vassals that have been neglected in conventional accounts of Tuareg society. It offers a multi-layered analysis of social status and identity formations in the diaspora, and pleads for a more dynamic understanding of Tuareg socio-political hierarchies. Analyzing in detail how both status groups rely on moralizing labels and racial stereotyping to reformulate their own social and ethnic identity, the study highlights refugees’ aspirations and capacities to remake their imaginary and material worlds in the face of adverse and often deeply humiliating living conditions.


Photo: Souleymane Diallo


How do new technologies complement the traditional media Westafrican culture uses to express itself?

The Tuareg refugees adopt cell phones as both recording and communication devices in the Nigerien diaspora. They use their cell phones to record, listen to and circulate guitar songs among themselves and further, to spell out their social identity and attachment to their culture as they lived it before their exile. In this way, they adapt new technologies of communication as the cell phones to their existing modes of cultural expression and strengthening of the Tuareg social identity and difference.



How will publishing online help further your academic career?

MAP provides me with a platform to start my academic career with a book published just one year after the completion of the dissertation. This and the professional supervision by the MAP team towards the publication improved both: the stylistic quality of the book and my skills to further my academic career. Ultimately, the open access facilities make the book available to various international academic circles and policy makers concerned with the Sahelian region.



Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Souleymane. All the best for the publishing of your project with MAP.