Saharan Crossroads: Exploring Historical, Cultural, and Artistic Linkages between North and West Africa

Ed. by Tara F. Deubel, Hélène Tissières and Scott M. Youngstedt

Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014

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Saharan Crossroads: Exploring Historical, Cultural, and Artistic Linkages between North and West Africa counteracts the traditional scholarly conception of the Sahara Desert as an impenetrable barrier dividing the continent by employing an interdisciplinary lens to examine myriad interconnections between North and West Africa through travel, trade, communication, cultural exchange, and correspondence that have been ongoing for several millennia. Saharan Crossroads offers a unique contribution to existing scholarship on the region by uniting a diverse group of African, European, and American scholars working on various facets of trans-Saharan history, social life, and cultural production, and bringing their work together for the first time. This trilingual volume includes eleven chapters written in English, five chapters in French, and three chapters in Arabic, reflecting the multicultural nature of the Sahara and this international project.

Saharan Crossroads explores historical and contemporary connections and exchanges between populations living in and on both sides of the Sahara that have led to the emergence of distinctive cultural and aesthetic expressions. This contact has been fostered by a series of linkages that include the trans-Saharan caravan trade, the spread of Islam, the migration of nomadic pastoralists, and European colonization. The book includes three major sections: (1) history, culture, and identity; (2) trans-Saharan circulation of arts, music, ritual performance, and architecture; and (3) religion, law, language, and writing. While the gaze of international political analysts has turned toward the Sahara to follow problematic developments that pose serious threats to human rights and security in the region, it is especially timely to recall that the people and countries of the Sahelo-Saharan world have maintained long histories of peaceful coexistence, interdependence, and cooperation that are too often overlooked in the present.