Northern Mali has been shaken by drought and conflict since the 1960s, leading to gradual redefinitions of notions of status, social hierarchy, and rights in land and people. These changes indicate a fundamental shift from genealogical to territorial visions of the world: from notions of infinite encompassment and concomitant hierarchy to conceptions of rights as derived from “indigeneity” and exclusive categories of ownership and belonging. The recent discovery of oil in the area lends further urgency to these issues, as shown here through an analysis of a pilgrimage to Arawān, north of Timbuktu, undertaken by the all-too-cosmopolitan descendants of a regional saint.
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