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Title:Of disciples and sultans: Power, authority and society in the nineteenth century Mauritanian Gebla
Author(s):Taylor, Raymond Michael
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Stewart, Charles C.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, African
Abstract:This dissertation examines processes of political and cultural transformation in the Gebla, the region of southwest Mauritania that lies along the right bank of the Senegal river. Its focus is the nineteenth century, a time of political upheaval, economic change and imperialism in the Senegal valley. Since at least the eighteenth century, a class of Arabic-speaking warriors had exercised political hegemony in the Gebla, collecting tribute from nomadic pastoralists and sedentary cultivators, and levying tolls upon the European trade in gum arabic.
In the nineteenth century, a combination of forces weakened that hegemony. Divisions among elite warriors fueled bitter and interminable conflicts. Explosive growth of the gum trade transformed local and regional economies, creating new forms of wealth and new concentrations of political power and social leverage. The indirect effects of French imperialism on the left bank of the river placed strains upon relationship of dependence between warriors and their pastoral or agricultural tributaries. Changing relations between Gebla warriors and communities on the opposite bank of the river undermined old alliances that had been the underpinnings of warrior power.
This thesis explores the cultural and ideological aspects of political crisis in the Gebla. It argues that the turmoil of the nineteenth century not only undermined the political hegemony of Arabic-speaking warriors, but also destabilized the ideologies through which they and others imagined the authority of elite warriors. New conceptions of authority emerged to challenge these ideologies, conceptions that were born out of the cultural and ethnic complexity of the Gebla, a place where Arabic speakers interacted with Berber speakers, Europeans, and speakers of sub-Saharan languages such as Wolof, Pulaar and Soninke. A process of cross-cultural dialogue shaped these new ideas, as people holding very different attitudes toward political authority attempted to translate their own changing visions into forms comprehensible to others, in the process creating new formulations that fed back into their internal debates about the nature of authority and relationship to political, social and economic power.
Sources include letters and other texts in Arabic from colonial archives and regional manuscript collections, as well as documents in European languages.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Taylor, Raymond Michael
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9712454
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9712454

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