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The Tent as Cultural Symbol and Field Site: Social and Symbolic Space, "Topos," and Authority in a Tuareg

Community Author(s): Susan Rasmussen Source: Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), pp. 14-26 Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317136 . Accessed: 01/02/2011 01:24
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THE TENT AS CULTURALSYMBOL AND FIELD SITE: SOCIALAND SYMBOLICSPACE, "TOPOS,"AND AUTHORITYIN A TUAREG-COMMUNITY
SUSAN RASMUSSEN Universityof Houston
In field narratives and symbolic studies the anthropologist's space as well as local social and symbolic space have been the subject of much reflection. This essay situates ethnographic practice at the intersection of local social and symbolic space and field space among the Tuareg, a semi-nomadic community in northern Republic of Niger, West Africa. It contributes to further refinement in documenting the mutuality of field encounters. I explore the role of tent as property in local ritual and in interactions in my fieldwork. The tent is a forum for control over intellectual as well as material property, and for alternately conflictual and dialogical construction of anthropological knowledge. [Africa, pastoralism, ethnographic analysis, symbolism, fieldwork] The Tent Space: Parallel and Distant Social and symbolic Worlds

In this essay I analyze the tent in two dimensions of experience: roleof the tent in Kel EweyTuathe reg culture and society, and in interactionssurthe in rounding tent duringmy fieldwork this seminomadiccommunity, locatedin the Air Mountains of northernNiger, West Africa. I interweavemy examinationof use of the tent among Tuareg as socialand symbolicspacewith my reflections inon and terchangesbetweenanthropologist subjectsin the simultaneously analytical and literal idea of tent as field space. Tuareg ethnography offers ininto representation, and socialand sights authority, symbolicspace issues, for example, the extent to which the gatheringof information adheresto heof gemonyand more precisedelineations the conI figurationof knowledge/power relationships. arthat the tent among Tuareg is not always a gue in to spaceof solitude; fact, it is opposed it in much local culturalimageryand field interaction.' While the tent can be used for discretionand secrecyin certaincontexts,it nonetheless standsas a spaceof centralidentityand sociability.Thus the organization of local social and symbolicspace in Tuareg cultureis empowering local negotiation repfor of and acts to balancepowerrelationsin resentation, the field. I show how the Tuareg"pastoral mode" in obliquelyrevealsnot solely inequalities relations that produced (Said 1979; knowledge ethnographic Foucault1980;Stocking1983), but also local resistance to this process, and, furthermore, internal competition over representation.These emerge
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from attitudesand activitieswithinTuaregsociety aroundthe tent as symbolic/social revolving space. On the one hand, the field space amongTuaaroundthe makingand remaking reg is structured of difference.On the other, the field site, located firmly within Tuareg social and symbolic space, also structures rapprochement detentebetween a or observerand observed,a "give and take" in field interaction withinthe spaceof the tent. In the sections that follow, I show how the Tuareg tent as instrument ambiguityin local and ethnographic of space becomesalternatelythe locus of autonomy and control.
The Tuareg Tent

Observations Preliminary in My experiences Tuareg tents encompassed my differentrolesin Niger:as trans-Saharan traveller, informalfamily guest duringPeace Corpsservice and employment, student of languageand cula underture, and more recently,as anthropologist taking systematicand intensiveresearch.Between 1976 and 1978,firstas a Niger PeaceCorpsvolunteer and laterunderlocal contractfor the Ministry of Education,I travelledacross the Sahara and spent severalsummerswithin ruralAir Mountain In for households. 1983, 1991,and 1995 I returned On fieldwork. the firsttwo tripsI resided long-term in grass and mat tent structures, on the 1995 and all building; these trip, in an adobe/mudone-room of structures were locatedin the compound a local in family. In this essay I focus on my experiences

THE TENT AS SYMBOLAND SITE the tents. My field space was not an importedapparatus,but in local culturalcategories:the basic propertyspace, the focus and setting of much ritual, sociability,and work.Nor was it alwaysa refuge. My Tuareg "home" was not just physical space, but also local cultural space. Tuareg drew me into their social world, one which revolved and boundary aroundtransitions crossing.

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a separate neighborhood, from the mosque. far Other low-statusfamilies (former slaves, the soand cially-ostracized, ethnic outsiders)tend to be on the edges of villages and camps. The married woman'sellipticalnomadictent is where she and her husbandreside. Adolescentboys, elderly peras sons, the insaneor otherwise debilitated, well as long-termvisitors,often live in conicalgrassstructures. Short-term Africanvisitorstend to stay in a chambrede passage;short-term tourists, European The Setting if they lack their own campingtents, tend to stay with blacksmiths. These latter visitorsare depenEach rural Kel Ewey Tuareg householdhas one dent outsiderswho are not "domesticated" acin which is usuallyone nuclearfamily. In compound, cordancewith Tuareg culturalvalues, who therethe Air dialect of Tamacheq,gara refers to the fore need to be protected guided,but also kept and compoundenclosure;eghiwan denotes the family underlocal surveillance control. and compoundinside it, or in more nomadic camps, The most strikingfeaturesof AMr communities simply "camp"or "home."Women say "those of are geographic,cultural,and politicalbarriers,as the gara eat together." Household unityis basedon well as mobility around them. There has been mothers,daughters,and sisters in their initial petrade,raiding,and conflictwith, first,the riodof uxorilocal in residence earlymarriage years, peaceful Frenchcolonialgovernment morerecently,the and and their frequentsharingof food and cookingfastate.2 In this setting Tuaregculturalvalues, parcilities and herds.This featureestablishesa major ticularlyfor traditionalnoble warriors,emphasize distinctionbetween insider and outsiderstatus. I boardedwith a family, contributingand sharing reserveand restraint(takarakit):greeting before someone enteringa tent, greetingon encountering food, whereas outsiders to the maternal tent on the road, even from a distance,and measuring (whether affines on husband'sside or travelling words carefully. In the presenceof personswith touristsor functionaries) and sleep at some diseat whom there is a strict reserverelationship (father, tance from the maternaltent. Touristsbring their own canned food. Affines who visit as honored senior relativeson the paternalside, and affines) limitedeye conguests duringrites of passage are lodged in adja- properpracticeis nameavoidance, tact; and refrainingfrom eating. cent tents and fed separately. Despitesuch reservein conductmy experience Kel Ewey communities range from sedentized in Air communities also includedacts of reciprocto semi-nomadic and gardeningoases, caravanning hamlets,to morenomadiccamps. ity: mutual questioningand assessment,and exlivestock-herding Today most Kel Ewey are seminomadic.Their changesof ideas, goods,and favors,most of which compoundsinclude a variety of residentialstruc- took place inside the tent. But these acts did not tures. The traditional nomadictent (edewor ehan) always flow freely. They were subject to negotiais constructedof palm-fibermats on a wooden tion and control,for the culturalvalue of reserve frame. It is built duringa weddingby elderly fesurrounding exchanges demands, paradoxically, both a central space and a protectivecover.Thus male relativesof the bride as her dowry,and it is while the tent does not guarantee thereafterownedby the marriedwoman.The comsecrecy,individuals nonetheless the tent as a site when control use also includes the conical grass tent (tetpound and discretionare desired:in taking a census, in trem),the rectangular grasskitchenand othershelters (each called abarkan), and often an adobe/ favors,and other delicate requestingclient-patron mud house (teghajemt). Residencesreflect tradi- situations.Not surprisingly, fieldworkexpermy in situations Tuaregculturewhich tional social stratification, which persists in rural iencesparalleled communities. Nobles, Islamic scholars (mara- centeron the tent and demandreserveand discrebouts), and chieflyfamiliesinhabitwell-maintained tion. For example, friends closed the compound door and entered the tent when they gave me tents neatlyencircledby tree-branch fencesor mud walls, whichare clusterednear the mosque.Black- presentsof goat cheese. They advised me vigorsmiths tend to inhabit crooked,old, badly main- ouslyto hide the cheesein my blousesleeves;othertainedtents with low fencesor none at all, often in wise, they said, smithswouldbadgerme for it. In-

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formation(whetherfield data or social opinions), materialobjects (for example,jewelry, tools, and householdfurnituremade by smiths), and people (especiallythe brideat a wedding)are all kepthidden insidetents and ideallymovebetweentents after dark. Dinner is served inside the compound (thoughnormallyoutsidethe tent) just after sunset, even if the evening prayer has already been said and food is readywhile it is still light. Marriage is the ultimate expressionof this reserve,and the nuptialtent the focal site pervasive for it. In the processionleading the bride to the nuptial tent, smiths' deliveries of commissioned products,such as jewelryfor the bride,and in the of caravantrade gifts to unpacking the husband's his mother-in-law, there is need for discretion,because such property is considered exposed and vulnerable.
The Tent in Social and Symbolic Space

The Tent in Ritual, Symbol,and Social Life in The Tuaregtent is important ritualand symbol, as well as in subsistence,propertyrelations,and marriage.Although recentlymen have been constructingmud houses,the tent remainsthe centerpiece of ruralTuaregculturein both nomadicand semi-nomadic communities.As noted, the tent is primarilyassociatedwith women,as womenbuild and own it. The maternaltent standsat the center of rites of passage: weddings,babies' namedays, and mortuary rituals. At weddings elderly female relatives of the bride constructthe nuptial tent (edew or aduba; at aduban,"weddings") sundownon each night of the eight-dayweddingritual,tear it downthe next day, and then rebuild it larger the next evening nearthe compound the bride'sparents.Although of the groom purchaseswood from blacksmithsfor the tent frame,and smithssing of a husband's oblito installhis wife in a goodtent as they lead gation the bride to the nuptialtent, the tent is the property of the woman. Kel Ewey say, "Old women know [the art of] weddingtent-construction best." Thereafter tent is partof the marriedwoman's this dowry,and she may eject her husbandfrom it if or tent muststand they quarrel divorce.A woman's near her mother'scompound,and she must share her mother'skitchenand merge her own livestock with her mother's the firsttwo or threeyearsof for marriage until bridewealthpayments and other

gifts fromthe groomare completed. Onlythen may the coupledecideto move away. At all rites of passage guests are lodged in tents. The women among visiting affines, called and chidegelen,are treatedwith extremedeference respect.Once I was a weddingguest of the side of the bride in a smith family. Just after dark when the groom'sside was to arrivefromanother village, women in the host family signaled me to follow them. We ran throughthe nearbydriedriverbed to meet the visitors.A friend told me to extinguish my flashlight,since it was necessaryto be on the spot they arrivein orderto greet them, but to do it so as to "surprise them,and then leadthemto their tent." This surprise sleeping greetingwas a matter of politenessor respecttowardthe visitors. Beginningon the secondnight of the wedding the bride and groomare separatelyled by friends in slow processions, held at differenttimes, to the nuptial tent. These groups circle the tent three times in a counterclockwise direction.This procession resemblesthat held at the evening unofficial child. The crowd ululates namedayof a firstborn and smiths play drums.Smiths close the door of the nuptialtent, and beat its mat doorwith sticks, while calling out "Bissmillallah" orderto keep in out spiritsthreatening coupleinside.The bride the enters the tent from beneath its left side panel ratherthan throughits frontdoor(still closed),until the finalnight of the wedding,whenin principle the marriage consummated. is After this ceremony a dancingfestivalsomedistanceaway, guests stage which ends after midnight. The tent also figuresimportantly the fourth on of a wedding, called "passing day."Young the day people back at the groom'shome play games, eat festivalfood, and chat insidethe tent all afternoon. Insidethe nuptialtent at the bride'shomemen and womenplay a game called taba on the tent's sand floor.Thereare two teams (menvs. women)on the two sides of the tent (with womenon the "feminine" left side, and men on the "masculine" right side), and playerstake turnscastingsticks.The obsticksto landwith jective is for men'sand women's the same side up. Outcomeshere are sometimes of ambiguous, as they are in real life situations just marriage,when relationsare sometimestense over bridewealth residence. and each day of the weddingthe bride Throughout lies proneinside her tent undera blanket,incense is burnedand a knife and amuletsare placednear her to ward off spirits. She is said to feel

THE TENT AS SYMBOLAND SITE

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and "ashamed" also to be threatened spiritsbe"the peopleof solitude,"or Kel Essuf [Rasmussen by cause they are jealous of persons who stand at 1995]).3In this schemethe oeud or driedriverbed transitions.By contrast,male guests of the groom (egoghas) is intermediate.While not as desolate and wild as the desertwild, the oeud nonetheless is gather by day in the groom's tettrem near his mother. For the first year of marriagebride and a space outsidesocial constraints. is sometimes It the scene of anti-socialbehavior groommeet in their tent only at night;duringthe includingbegging and illicit love trysts.The latter take place outside day each returnsto his or her parents'home. The tent also figuresin other rites of passage the nuptialtent in contrastto marriedsexual relawhen identitiesare new and fragile. After a birth tions which are to occur inside the tent. Married motherand baby remainin the mother'ssecluded couples are, furthermore, supposedto leave their tent behinda windscreen fortydays, for protec- compound for separatelyand refrainfrom walkingin tion against spirit attacks to which a new mother the oeud together. and baby are viewed as especiallyvulnerable.On Yet too much solitudealso invitesattacks by the eveningbeforethe officialIslamicnamedaythe spiritsand illness.WhenI fell ill with strepthroat, an baby is taken by elderlyfemale relativesin a pro- I overheard older womanattributemy sickness cession aroundthe baby's mother'scompound"in to the wild;she remarked, "Thereasonshe got sick orderto showit the world."This procession part is is becauseshe goes so far off behindthe rocksto of the unofficial, women'sobservance the baby's bathe, out in the wild." On anotheroccasion,as I of duringwhichthey bestowa non-Koranic, was concludinga visit to friendsin a neighboring nameday, nameon the child.The officialnameday village, the sun was beginningto set. My friends Tamacheq at the mosquein contrastinvolvesa namingby the invitedme to stay the night, but I demurred, since maraboutand the baby'sfather. were at homein my host compound. my provisions The tent as ritual space is thereforethe focal I told them not to worry,for the moon was full. point of personalidentity and propertyownership But as I set out for my home base (about a mile from the perspectiveof the maternal side. Yet away), the clouds driftedover the moon, and the these are alwayssubjectto threatsfromcompeting wind pickedup, coveringtire-tracks normallyvisiforces (the paternalside from inside the commu- ble on this routewith sand. I hesitantlyproceeded as best I could,terrified, nity, and the world of sedentarytowns and enresistingpanic,and finally croachinggovernmentcontrol from the outside). reached a tent at the edge of my home village. Hence the tent is the focal site of negotiation, when Shakenbut relievednot to be lost in the desertall cautiousreserved behavior called for. Indeed,the is night, I sank down onto a mat in this tent (the tent embodiesthe tentativenatureof humanrelahome of some smiths) and relatedmy story. One a tions, and provides forumin ritualand sociability woman,Haya,4explainedthat the tombsalongthe for controlling them. routeare hauntedby the Kel Essuf (peopleof soliThere are two aspects to this negotiationof tude) after dark, and that they had caused the control. First, since many husbands (prosperous clouds and wind. and Beliefs about the tombs expressthe interwomerchants, Islamicscholars)are begardeners, ginningto constructmud houses,which they own, ven, rather than opposed,aspects of pre-Islamic women'sownershipof the tent and their right to and Islamiccosmology Tuaregculture.Although in eject husbandsfrom it upon divorceare facing a spirits called djinn are mentionedin the Koran, distinct challenge (Rasmussen 1991, 1995). SecSpirits of the Wild or Solitude are of a different ond, many Tuareg feel threatenedby government order;they cause afflictions curableby Koranic not policiesfavoringsedentization; verses,but only by exorcismrites. Tombsof saints they believe,for example, that agriculturalregions receive favored and marabouts (Islamicscholars)thus can become treatment in development projects (Rasmussen opposedto Islam in certain contexts, such as at 1994). Thus there is reasonfor Tuaregto fear ennight, when they are taken over by non-Koranic croachingpolitical forces from outside the mater- spirits.- Such spirits attack vulnerable persons: nal tent. This fear pervadeslocal cosmologyand those who go about after sundown withoutprotecmythology,which opposethe classic nomadictent tive swords(whosemetalrepelsspirits)and women on (ehan) and civilization the one handto the wild on Fridaysand Moslem holidays.The time after and solitude(essuf), on the other (this latter term sundown the spaceoutsidevillagesand camps, and is also a metaphorfor possessionby spiritscalled associatedwith freedomof interaction,including

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY house. The couple took their case to the secular courtsin Agadez,whichruled a compromise: each party changed the door on his or her respective structureso that the buildingsfaced the exterior, ratherthan the interiorcourt.This solutiondivided the propertyand also saved the divorcedcouple from daily interaction. Aghaly ate at his mother's he home.Eventually movedbackinto his old house in adjacentto his parents'compound the neighboring village. exThese residential tensionsare symbolically pressedin a ritual called tineseslem,"greetingthe tent," held after one year of marriagewhen the bride'ssisters-in-law cometo her in order,the hosts "to show her that they like her." They explained, sing special songs greeting their affines and in veiled humoralternatelypraise and criticize local men. At the men's dance accompanyingthe women's choral singing, cognates and affines compete. Some women accompanytheir husbandsin two virilocalresidence, optionafter the required an to three years of uxorilocalresidence, although to many womenresist this, preferring remainnear divorce. theirmotherand sistersand laterinitiating I noticedmarkeddifferences spatial layout and in sociability,as well as authoritypatternsbetween uxorilocaland virilocalresidence.In uxorilocality occuramong mostvisitingand sharingof resources relatedwomen(mothersand sisclose, maternally ters). In virilocalitythe wife is more isolatedand on more dependent her husbandand consequently his family. She is subjectto a strict reserverelaand tionshipwith her parents-in-law, obtainsa bit less assistancewith householdtasks from her sisters-in-law thanfromshe wouldfromher siblingsif she lived uxorilocally. Other residentialvariationswere related to in greatersedentization the area between1983 and the mid-1990s: thereweremoremudwalls, houses, and lockson doorsof tents and houses.Mudhouses were seen as effectiveagainstthe cold seasonand than tents. Many womensaid they more fireproof liked both tents and houses;they added that the house was "warmin winter."By 1995 many men had constructedhouses, and a compoundwas knownby the husband's insteadof the wife'sname. to and Yet most womencontinued construct maintain their nomadictents. Since for most women livestockherdsremainan importantproperty,the is tent's primary leverage importance psychological in in marriage. This was clearlyunderlined a mari-

extra-marital affairs,are the domainof Spirits of dethe Wild;the term essuf, "wild"or "solitude," of scribesboth this wilderness the spirits,and also a possessed solitarystate of mind.The important or and point here is that territories beingsoutsidethe maternaltent are viewed with ambivalence.The tent therebybecomesthe focus of tensionsoverauand tonomyand controland strugglesoverpersonal collectiveidentityand property. The Tent as Property I firstbeganto learnaboutproperty rulesconcernsoon ing the tent and its role in jural relationships drewa plan after my arrivalin 1983. A schoolboy of the village and labelled all compounds by women's names first; he did not even bother to name men. When I questionedhim about this, he said, "The homes are the women's."6 Compounds, tents, and grass structures belongto women,adults since womenbuildthem, womennourish explained, children,and womenstay home. Householditems belong to both husbandand wife. From adolescence untilold age, women'senergiesgo into weaving of mats and tent materials,and the construction, upkeep, and repair of tents and grass buildings.When a womandies, her tent or grass and buildingis destroyed the land beneathit is left enclosedwith a fence for about a year or until a marries. Mats from the deceased granddaughter as woman'stent are distributed alms. Men's mud houses are not destroyed on their deaths; the houses are inherited,usually by sons, occasionally by daughters. Upon divorce,the womankeepsher tent if she has children.If, on the other hand, she has been marriedonly brieflyand lacks children,she often returnsto her family and her tent is graduallydestroyed.Other residentialstructuresare awarded to according who ownsthe land beneaththem. The personwho owns the land is the personwho first built the structureon it. Thus there are frequent overwhereto live:womentry to stay near struggles mothersand sisterson the originalsite of theirmaternal and nuptial tents; men try to build a new home on their own land near their own family's compoundand to bring their wives there later. Houses complicatemarital propertydisputes.For example, after the divorce of Aghaly and Mariama,Aghaly retainedhis mud house and she on her tent in the same compound the same land. did At first, the ex-husband not want to leave his

THE TENT AS SYMBOL AND SITE

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tal disputewhich took a violent turn: Mohammed was contracting a second, polygynousmarriage when his first wife, Mana, discovered and flew this into a rage. Later,while Mana was out at the pastures in a temporarynomadiccamp, she encountered the woman Mohammedplanned to marry. One night she set fire to her future co-wife'stent. A local councilof eldersand marabouts ruledthat Mana had to gather all the palm fibers,purchase all the wood, and weave all the mats to build this womana new tent. Althoughmanywomencovertly with Mana (for most Tuareg women sympathized oppose, and many actively resist, polygyny),they still considered her act extreme, and she was shunnedfor some time. Thus the tent is property,but it is boundup with much more, namely, self-respect.To women, it symbolizesthe Tuareg traditionalideal of monogamy,despiteIslam'sallowingpolygyny.Tuareg men who are polygynous to avoidco-wives' try jealand ousy by keepingthem in separatecompounds even distantvillages.In these instancesthe tent becomes even more obviouslyan issue than it would in monogamy,when it expressesthat the married coupleis a single unit, in principlewith no intruders or competitors. Thus the tent becomesa forum for assertionof dignity and self-respect.In rural Tuareg communities,in contrast to some other communitiesin Niger and other parts of Africa, one never finds tents of co-wiveswithin the same in Furthermore, contrastto co-wivesin compound. some other neighboring African groups,for example, the Hausa, Tuaregco-wivesnevershare cookof ing facilities.This arrangement separate,preferably distant,residencesfor co-wivesreinforcesthe of continuingpsychological importance the tent as a woman'sdomain. Other residentialpropertychanges I noticed on later trips to Air relatedto privacyand wealth differences.My host in 1991 installed a tin door with a lockonto the mudwall surrounding comhis pound, within which stood two adobe (mud) houses, a kitchen room, and his wife's nomadic tent. He reassuredme burglarywas not yet widespread,but "nonetheless, people will steal if they believea personis rich."He also openeda chambre de passage adjacentto the compound, which to in lodgetravellers, althoughthe coupleinstalledme in the wife's nomadictent. Each year I also noticedmoreshort-term, seasonal residentialvariations,which also had an effect on social interactionand spatial organization.

The plansof a compound the directions tent and of doorsduringthe caravanseasondifferedfromthat duringthe rainy season (after men's return).Several days after her husband's returnfrom Kanoon caravan in 1983, Zeinabou, my hostess at that of time, changedthe direction doorson her kitchen and other buildingsto face inward; the throughout caravanseasonwhile her husbandwas away, they had faced outward toward the next-door compoundsof her motherand sisters.She also moved her sleepingplace fromher kitchenbackto the nomadic tent. Her young children slept: outside, rather than with their mother in her kitchen as they had duringtheir father'sabsence.The family used one grass tettrem for storing caravantrade adogoods, I inhabitedanother,and her husband's lescent sons by a previousmarriageoccupiedthe third. This seasonalspatialarrangement reflects,and also reinforces,a change from matrifocalto patrifocal orientation in socioeconomiclife upon men's return from caravantrading.7It impacted certain aspects of my own work. During caravan seasonmothers,sisters,and olderwomenfrom extendedhouseholds visit, sharefood,and workmore closely, whereasafter the men's return,there is a more nuclear householdemphasis.Older women from extendedhouseholds visit and pool workand resources often. I too changedthe door of my less own tent and foundmy interaction changedsomewhat: after the men's returnfrom caravansvisits centered more on the chief's home. Also, women remainedmore around their own nuclear household;they explainedthis to me by sayingthey "do more work and less visiting when men are at home." The relativedegreeof sedentization nomand adism impingeson property,conceptsof personal space, privacy,and visiting. My more sedentized host family had by the 1990sbegun to close their mud wall's tin door at night, occasionallyduring the day if the compoundwas deserted.My host familyin 1983, by contrast,had only a tree-branch fence enclosing the tent, buildings,and kitchen. Zeinabou's morenomadiccompound, moreopenas it was, encouraged people(and goats) to come and go almost at will. The central outdoorcourtyard was, in effect, similarto the Westernfront porch. Differentspatial arrangements semi-sedentized in new conceptsof privacy, compounds accompanied and closed-in,dispersonalbelonging,ownership, crete spatial boundaries. Unrelatedguests are ex-

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY camped outside the villages beyond the gardens. But local residentsinsisted they were imposters: banditsposingas rebels. In the next section I use the tent as topos in orderto explore,not only the fieldworker's, also but in the local residents',mode of surveillance, field I encounters. showhow the tent is not alwaysa site from which the disciplining disciplinesgaze upon and subject their subjectsto the "panopticgaze" (Foucault 1980). Yet the question remains:To mawhat extentcan the gatheringof ethnographic terial be separatedfrom power and surveillance within the local systemof hegemonyand in interactionbetween"the West and the Rest"?The tent, site of construction ethnography, also a site of is of local social and politicalforces.Thus it is instrucin tive to explorebalanceand mutuality knowledge A growingbodyof literature production. problematizes agency (Boddy 1989; Hansen 1989; Karp 1990; E. Turner 1992) and fieldwork(Rabinow 1977; Stoller and Olkes 1987; Gottlieb and Graham 1992) in this process.These worksprovide ininto the mutualityof the encounterin the sights reveal many nuancesof the field. My experiences in mutuality of observationand decision-making Local knowledge-representation. conceptsof social and culturalspace, examinedin the previoussection, make mutualitypossibleand shape the outcomes of field encounters. From the Door of My Tent and Tent As Fortress,Meeting-Place, Forum When I arrivedto conductmy first field research project,my doctoralstudy of female spirit posseswere initiallyreserved. sion in 1983,ruralresidents While not hostile, most residents(except my host family) merelyignoredme at first,assumingI was a touristwho "wouldsoongrowboredand go back to Agadez."A field assistanttold me later that it that I was "really only graduallybecomeapparent doing somethingserious."I was obliged to work very hard to demonstratemy separatenessfrom other, more frequent,more malignedoutsidersto of the maternaltent: functionaries outside origin and posted in the Air region,tax-collectors, tourists. I arrivedalonein a caravanning village,on an agriculturalcooperativetruck, just before sunset season.I carrieda letduringthe dusty sandstorm exand ter from a friend,a marabout agricultural me tensionagent, introducing to my host as a stu-

pectedto greet their hostsbeforeenteringthe compound,ratherthan simplyto step throughthe treebranchfence and greet from beside the tent door, as at Zeinabou's. My own visitingwas also affectedby this spatial contrast:it became slightly more formalized and marked in entrances and exits. There was greatermaterialsecuritynowbut also moredomesdomination. related Yet tic isolationand patrifocal of both sexes and differentages still entered guests where ratherfreely at most times. In communities there were still no mud houses,I was expectedafto ter visitinga compound stop and visit next door compounds,since space was more fluid and less and fencesand tents bounded discrete.Tree-branch encouragemore mergingof space than mud walls and houses. Also, with houses come larger compounds,where visits tend to focus selectivelyand in exclusively, contrastwith tents and smallercomwherevisits take place insidethe tent, both pounds, among locals and between local residents and myself. To sum up, the tent, as material property, physicaland moralspace, and social and symbolic space in Tuareg culture is the focal point in a range of lifestyle contrastsand changes, negotiations and tensions,over space and time: between nomadismand semi-sedentism; betweenuxorilocal and virilocal postmaritalresidence;between monogamy and polygyny;and between caravanning seasonand rainyseason.Furthermore, tentsare the of are privateproperty women,but, paradoxically, in considered some sense, a publicdomain.People enter and leave them fairly freely, if they are in a familiarrelationship. Peopleare supposedto greet beforeentering,thoughmanyresidents ignoredthis in my case while I resided at Zeinabou's: many in simplyappeared my doorand greetedme there, inside.In the moresedengazing at my belongings tized compoundI felt more sheltered,but also at Social stratumis also signifitimes morerestricted. cant: smithsoften come only to nobles'tent doors, not enteringeven if asked to do so. Smith women also leave an item orderedon the mat, ratherthan giving it directly to nobles. It is the wild (oeud)-associated with spirits,animals,illicit love trysts,outsideinvadersfrom town and the capital city-that is a trulyprivatedomain.But the wild is This was vividly illustratedto me also dangerous. in 1995,whenI encountered groupof armedmen a walking in a oeud. They claimed to be former rebels, now acting as a regional police force

THE TENT AS SYMBOLAND SITE dent of Tuareg culture and the Tamacheq language.I was receivedwith generoushospitality, I if also some reserveand bemusement. was served was a dinnerI laterdiscovered far moresumptuous than everydayfare (salad, goat cheese, meat, rice, the ritual drink, eghale), and boardedin a tent within the compoundof a maraboutique, noble, and chieflyfamily. After dinner I gropedclumsily for my flashand light, sleeping-bag, watercanteenin the dark. My hostess,Zeinabou,led me by the hand,almost as one woulda toddler,to a conical grass tettrem, one of severalwhich stood empty while the older their fawere accompanying sons of the household in ther caravanning the South. This building,she elwouldbe warmerthan the traditional explained, nomadictent during the cold, liptical, palm-fiber dry season (where I would stay later in my fieldwork).She herselfslept with her youngchildrenin the rectangular grass kitchenuntil her husbandreseveralmonthslater. turnedfrom caravanning My firstnight in this tent was physicallycomfortable,though far from peaceful.Followingdinner, a crowdof friendly,intenselycuriouschildren clusteredaroundthe door and watchedmy every move, without reprimandfrom the adult women visitors who sat nearby under flickeringkerosene strips for mat and tentlamps weavingpalm-fiber overtwo smallkittens, repair.The childrenbrought which they engaged in a "cock-fight" placing by the kittens'tiny headstogetherto make them claw and bite each other. I expressedsome mild shock, them, in Americanfashion, to "pet" encouraging the kittens instead;the women took little notice. Gratefulfor company,I triedto makesmall-talkin Tamacheq.Later on, both physicallyand emotionally exhaustedfrom the strain of being constantly demandson watchedand from the unaccustomed my Tamacheq vocabulary, I wondered how to the gracefully"mark" end of my desirefor conversation and visiting. One adolescentschoolboyfinally asked me, "Are you ready to go to sleep now?"Relieved,I indicated"yes,"and the visitors to I if all retreated. wondered I was supposed literally lie down,to signifythis-in the future,I admit I sometimesdid this, "playing possum"when I wanted some privacy. Soon thereafter Zeinabou broughtcoals in a small brazierto heat the tent (it was near was early Januaryand the temperature I freezingafter sundown). thankedher, gratefulfor the warmth,but also briefly worryingabout fire. Then I fell asleep,exhaustedafter my sleeplessfif-

21

teen-hourtrip atop sacks of millet on the truck, over unpaved,rockydesertterrain.Laterthat evening, windsreachedalmost 50 miles an hour-the called cold seasonin the Saharabringssandstorms Harmattan-and my tent doorkept blowingoff because I did not yet knowhow to attachit. I vaguely rememberwaking from time to time throughout it the night, to chase after it and re-secure in pitch darkness.I also recall hearingpacks of dogs wanthe deringthroughout hamlet. At first, my hosts consideredmy stay in the tent a temporary offeringto build a arrangement, mud house for me in the future. They assumedI would prefer a house, since most primaryschool teachersresidedin housesand hiredcooksand servants. But I indicatedthat I felt at home in the tent and there was no need to build a new house. but They seemed surprised, also pleased.I hoped that this living arrangement-I as "international student-houseguest" who contributed food, medicine, and help with women's domestic work-encouraged my integrationinto the local in community severalrespects.Local women,tententhusiastic ownersthemselves, seemedparticularly I on aboutthis arrangement; heardthem proclaim, me introducing to others,"She lives in a tent, not a house!"It integratedme more naturallyinto their workprojects; example,I participated for easily in and women'scommunal tent-construction the feast that followedheld by the hostessfor whomthe tent The was constructed. tent also provided greatersecurityby allowingme to blendin moreinconspicuthan woulda moreostenously with local residents tatious house." On those rare occasions when and functionaries soldiersvisited(duringfoodrelief and immunizadistributions, development projects, tion programs),I could keep a low profile and avoid sensitivequestionsand peoplefrom whom I wishedto distancemyself (those who triedto initiate a flirtation or questioned me about local politics). Livingin a local buildingwithina familycomfrom a poundalso provided measureof protection withinthe community a theft:socialsponsorship by respectedfamily was importantin the local viewpoint,especiallysince I lackednearbykin. On several occasions,friendstold me, "We do not (usuYou come fromoutside,so you ally) like outsiders. need protection." Indeed,this pointwas reinforced much later, when,followingmy ten-dayabsencein the town of Agadez for mail and supplies,I returnedto find that, in the interim,my host family

22

ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY this treatedhastily.WhenI mentioned incidentthe next morningto Zeinabouand her sistersas they crushedgrain for the noon meal, they exchanged looksand laughed,tellingme that the "inknowing truder" was probablya suitor. In rural Tuareg communitiesthere is much open sociability between men and women,and courtshipis a highly stylized interaction,with special conversation, pofor etry, and music.It is customary a man to enter the tent of a woman who interests him and "awaken"her. But he must leave beforemorning and avoid being seen by her parents.The woman may reject his advancesand throwhim out of her tent if she wishes. This abortedflirtation,which was begun by a local residentwho was not in authority over me or any other Tuareg, occurred localcode. I was able to reject underthis protective it if I wished. of The experience my presencein the residential tent on the partof Tuaregand myselfparallels other instancesin which anthropologists confront of the problem agencyand mutualityin knowledge construction(Hansen 1989; Karp 1989, 1990; E. Turner 1993; Gottlieband Graham 1992; Stoller and Olkes 1987). The tent as field space was used strategically myself and local residentsin a reby albeit not ciprocalprocessof mutual observation, or What enabled always intentionally consciously. to this reciprocity occur was that the tent evoked cultural associationsof great importanceto local residents.Acts of entering,leaving,and occupying and this "home" spaceconveyculturalattachments detachments,reciprocityand conflict in the life and course,genderconstructs, unequalyet negotiable relationsbetweensocial strata,betweeninsider and outsider,and betweenobserverand observed. Both researcherand subjectsare attachedto the reasons. The tent as a multent, albeitfor different tivocalsymbolinteractswith the tent as fieldmeeting-place, in a complex dialogue between researcher and subject. The tent provides contextualization,evocation, and negotiation of relationships. My residencewith a family also broughtinto issues of control, reciprocity,and the foreground with a single clan and identification dialogue.My and affectedlocal social stratumwas problematic processesof alliance and factionalism.One incithis. One day, I visdent, in particular, highlighted ited a motherand her growndaughterwho lived nearthe edge of the village.Theirlocationreflected their social marginality; althoughthe motherwas

had experienceda tragedy:their youngestson, a boy of abouteighteenmonths,had died of a stomach ailment.Following deathit is the practicefor a a family to move, but the family had relocated about six miles away to start a gardenin orderto augment their subsistence.I was aware of this practiceand that I was welcometo follow. I also felt uncomfortable there.Indeed,I probremaining would never have remainedif the death had ably occurredwhile I had been there, but my absence had left me a bit more detachedfrom its full impact. I was beset by a dilemma:I wishedto gather more data at this site. I realized that remaining might place me at some risk, both sociologically and pragmatically, and I also felt uneasy by my in own as well as local standards a place of recent death. But I was unawareof the extentof this risk or of its long-termeffects, and I decided(perhaps unwisely)to postponemy move. I indicatedthat I plannedto followthe family soon, but not immediately,and I remainedin the compound,now vacant except for my own residence. Zeinabou's sistersand mothernext doorfed me and assistedme with water and charcoal,saying that I was "now their sister (and granddaughter) .
.

as I was Zeinabou's daughter ...

to feed." Fromtime to time Zeinaboucame by to did visit, and our relationship not appearto be adaffected. Yet thereafter, friends who versely that I was "in solitude(or the stoppedby remarked wild)," and residentsoften greeted me by asking "Maniessuf?"or "Howis the wild (or solitude)?" In effect, they sensed a danger; my social and moral protectionhad been removed.As outsider and guest in a lonelytent withoutmy adoptedfamily, I was soon seen as vulnerable.A few minor of thefts occurred.Except in circumstances abanthe donmentof a camp or compound, tent or home if is opposedto the wild or solitude.Therefore, an individualstays alone inside an abandonedcomso pound,and particularly if the individualis an outsiderwithoutkin or there has been a death, he in or she is considered, effect, a non-socialperson. The space becomes asocial open to any kind of anti-socialact. tent in My residence Zeinabou's as long as her effamily was presenthad another,double-edged fect over the long-term:it made me appearvery "open"to local suitors. One evening I awoke to find an unknownfigure with a flashlightentering my tent frombeneaththe side wall panel;fearinga burglary,I cried out in alarm and the figure re-

THE TENT AS SYMBOLAND SITE of noble origins and a successful herbalist, her daughter had borne several illegitimate children. [While courtshipoutsidemarriageis permitted,illegitimatebirths are shameful,and an unmarried mother is stigmatized.] Thus these two women I were socially ostracized.As I approached, saw that the older woman was tanning goat hides, as her daughternursedher new baby. Heat, moisture, and general debris about the compoundhad attractedan armyof red ants. The ants now covered the floormats, and, with their stingingbites, were crawling over the new baby. Extremelyupset, I headed to the home of an agriculturalextension of agent, a brother-in-law my host, who had a small shop in the village. I knew he stockedsome DDT powder,since several months previouslyhe had treated my own tent floor after I had found termiteseating my books.But this time he denied he had any powder; whetherhe truly did not have any, or simplywithheldit, remainsa mystery.But I was acutelyawarethat the womenon the edge of the village had no hope of exterminating red the ants withoutthe DDT, whichmy host familyalone controlled. During my returnvisit duringthe summerof 1991 the chiefly families competed to host me. Zeinabouand her familyengagedin nomadism and outside the village. They insisted I gardening needed to stay "with people who respect and are respected." This time a grand-nephewof the foundingleaderof the local descentgroupand his wife offeredto host me. This youngcouple,married for just four yearsand still childless,spokeFrench, and indicated they could assist with poetry and on song transcriptions a regularbasis. The idea of a husband/wife"team" of assistantsappealedto me, becauseit promiseda more balancedexegesis of genderroles,amongothertopics.So I decidedto stay with them. As both full-timefield assistantsand hosts,my fictive brother and sister were very helpful and skilled, and had both positiveand negativeeffects on my work.The husband,Idrissa,had some experience workingfor the livestockdevelopment proaid and gramof an international organization, held notionsof time and workclose to Westernnotions. He and his wife Houna kindly offeredto accomto pany me on visits. This was advantageous me in moresystematicaspectsof fieldwork, it became but in subtly detrimental informalparticipant-observation. Unlike my previous hosts, this couple atwork schedtemptedto segmentour transcription

23

ule rigidly.They also tried to screenvisitorsto my own tent: if individuals arrivedwhomthey disliked or did not consider"proper" visitors, the couple them. Althoughthey sincerelywanted discouraged to help and protectme, I wishedinsteadto associate with a varietyof personsin the community. I had to be assertivein order to be able to act go outsideon my own, whetherin visitingor in speaking Tamacheq with friends who did not speak French.I had to make extraeffortsto keep up my social contactswith otherwomenmore than I had in 1983. There were also challengeswhich resulteddiand rectlyfromourresidential subsistence arrangements. In this village Zeinabouhad lived in uxorilocalresidence,whereasHounalived virilocally. Idrissa,as male householdhead in a more sedentized village and next door to his parents,exerted greater authorityover his wife than did Moussa, Zeinabou'scaravannerhusband.Also, like other husbandsin semi-sedentized gardeninghouseholds with smallerherdsto rely on, he acted as economic and middle-man, his wife spent moretime processing grain. Idrissamade effortsto protectme, but also to isolateme and makeme dependent him. on He tried to prevail over others' (including his of me wife's) interpretations texts, encouraged to collect men's versions of local history, favored Koraniclaw, and played down women'salternate versionsof oral historyand law. He was also cool toward visiting smiths, whom he disdained,but werevaluableinformants to who,as oral historians,
me.9

Conclusion The interplayof tent as social and symbolicspace and as field space is complexand examination of this interplayoffers insightsinto the mutualityof the field encounter.On the one hand, the tent servedas escape for me, but only from other outsiders, whom local residentsalso sought to avoid. Contraryto some other cases (Bohannan 1964; Briggs 1970; Stocking 1983; Rosaldo 1986), the tent did not in any way protectme from the gaze of local residents;nor did it serve to elevate my own gaze overthem.On the contrary, tent was, my not a remotepalaquinfrom which, perchedhigh I cast a "panoptic gaze,"but ratherit was a meeting place,whereI becamethe objectof local residents' gaze and of their own effortsto controlhow I observedand represented them. In Tuaregperception

24

ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY people are suspiciousof ulteriormotivesof taxato tion," and addedthat it wouldseem "touristic" do otherwise.10 systemenabledlocal residents This who workedmorecloselywith me to monitorquestions and answers. The field space is a complexnexus of surveillance and control,on the one hand,and escapeand strategic manipulation, on the other. These in processesare multidirectional terms of agency: they occur both between researcherand Tuareg, and amongdifferentfactionsin Tuaregsociety.As the settingof negotiations transitions, tent and the stimulatesreflectionover personalidentityon the and As part of both researcher local residents. the for meeting-place alliancesand exchangesof propdenial, and deerty, it is the focus of affirmation, bates over these forces. In the tent I was drawn into social relationships whichenteredmy descriptions of Tuaregsociety in important ways. Activities in and aroundthe tent drewand redrewsocial boundaries. Beliefs and practicespertaining the to tent impingedon interaction and duringfieldwork, thereby provided insights into ethnographic knowledge.

the tent separated fromothercategories outme of sider personswhom Tuareg view ambivalently. It enabledthem to absorbme partiallyinto local social categoriesof kinship,social stratum,and gender and therebyto imposerightsand obligations on me and to exert a measureof controlover how I conducted research, indeed,livedmy life there.But this process also had the effect of consolidating some local residents'(notablyelites') powerand of challengingothers'in authoritative representation. I had to workhard to overcomelocal intervention, and factionalism, domination. Nonetheless,on balance,there was a mutualthat was shapedby interity of the fieldexperience actionwithinand aroundthe tent. Smiths,in a client-patronrelationshipwith nobles, often sought favorsand goods,and exchanged gossip,withinmy tent (Rasmussen1993). All importantsystematic research and overtquestioning techniques involving writing of responses took place within the tent-transcriptions, census-taking,and collection of genealogiesand inheritance data. A field assistant, in hushedtones, advisedme to conductcensuses from within a single tent with informants, ratherthan going aroundto every tent, "because

NOTES
Data for this essay are based on my resiAcknowledgments dence and researchin the Republicof Niger, for nearly seven years:from 1974-1977as a Peace Corpsvolunteer;1977-1979 in underlocal contractfor the Ministryof Education; 1983 in researchon female spirit possessionfundedby FulbrightHays in and Indiana UniversityGrant-in-Aid; 1991 in researchon the life courseand aging, fundedby Wenner-Gren Univerand and sity of HoustonLimited-Grant-in-Aid; 1995 in researchon female herbalistsand diviners,funded by the Social Science Research Council, Wenner-Gren,and National Geographic Society. referencesto living 1Earlyexplorers'and anthropologists' and arrangements interactionin the field providea baselineof data for explorationof these issues (King 1903; Malinowski 1940:In1922;Rennell 1926;Campbell1928;Evans-Pritchard Bohannan1964; Briggs 1970). Yet these works,in troduction; contrastto more recent dialogicalanthropological approaches (Rabinow1977;Stoller and Olkes 1987; Boddy 1989; Gottlieb and Graham1992), imply that the field residence,althoughit for providesa vantage-point study of daily life, is primarilya retreator escape from the field. Studiesof social and symbolic space (Reichard 1950; Cunningham1958; Appadurai1986) of and suggestthe complexity relationsbetweenresearcher subject can take in the context of local spatial symbols and boundaries. the 'Throughout eighteenthand nineteenthcenturiesthere were variousinterconfederational wars, for example,wars between the Kel Ewey and the Kel Geres, and raids on the Kel Ewey by the Tubu. After a long resistanceTuaregconfederations were subjugated by France and were absorbed into French West Africa early in the twentieth century. In 1960 nation-state.Most TuaregpeoNiger became an independent Algeria. ples live in northern Niger, easternMali, and southern Recently there was a Tuareg rebellion in Mali and Niger (1991-1995).A pact was signedbetweenrebelsand the governof ment in April 1995. Its termsincludea program de-centralization, in which formerrebel fronts in northernregionswere installed as police and judicial forces, and outside authorities were replacedby local authorities. 8The term essuf has been translatedas "wild"and "solitude"; it is also used as a metaphorfor possessionby spirits called "the people of solitude"or Kel Essuf (Casajus 1987; Rasmussen1995). names in this article are pseudonyms. 4All individuals' "While all Tuareg groups are nominally Moslem, Kel Ewey are very devout in their practiceof Islam, and around MountBagzanineslemenor maraboutclans exert considerable These Koranicscholarsare not a separatesocialstrainfluence. in tum, but some inherittheiroccupations certainclans, called ineslemen.In this region, the chiefly families also tend to be marabouts,but the conversedoes not hold true: marabouts need not be from chiefly families. 6Tuaregwomen enjoy relativelyhigh social prestige and economicindependence, there is free social interaction beand tween men and women in formalizedcourtshipand conversation, in women'sright to inheritproperty,in their abilities to and visit withouthusbands' permission, to initiatedivorce(Nicolaisen 1963; Murphy 1964; Worley 1992: 54-64). Many of Kel these rightsalso applyto Kel Eweywomen;however, Ewey based on competingKoraniclaw. See displayminorvariations, Rasmussen(1991, 1993, 1994). Monogamyhas been the rule chiefs, maraamong most Tuareg, but some more prosperous

THE TENT AS SYMBOL AND SITE


bouts, merchants, and gardeners contract polygynous marriages,especiallyin later life. AlthoughKel Ewey Tuaregpractice of gardening alongside herding and caravanning is longstanding,by the mid-1990s there has been even greater of men'sconstruction in sedentization many ruralcommunities: mud houses alongsidewomen'stents has exacerbatedtensions in property-balance between the sexes. These are expressedin the changeof practicefrom identifyingcompounds namesof by wives to identifyingthem by names of husbands,and men's greateruponthis latter process.The coupleon marriageresides of next to the compound the bride'sfamily for the first two to three years. This is a trial periodduringwhich the marriageis often brittle;the new husbandmust "pleasehis mother-in-law" by completingbridewealth(usually one camel), workingfor and generally estaband bringinggifts to his parents-in-law, lishing himself in his wife's household.During this time the bride must cook in her mother's kitchen, her bridewealthis held in trust,and her livestockherdsremainmergedwith those of her mother.After this trial periodthe husbandasks his wife to to ask her motherfor permission disengageher herdsso that the couple can choose to move or remain. This is a delicate matter. Mothers-in-lawhave the power to delay separation and, if they dislike the son-in-law,may even break up their daughter'smarriage. tradeex'Kel Ewey Tuaregmen still conductcaravanning peditionsby camel from the Air region, to an eastern desert oasis, Bilma, where salt and dates are obtained,and to Kano, Nigeria, where dates, salt and millet are sold and exchanged for other cereals, householdtools, and luxuriessuch as spices and cloth. See Skolle (1955) and Bernus (1981) for detailed of descriptions Tuaregcaravans. bandi8Sincethe early 1990s there has been considerable try in northernNiger. An outside visitor'sresidencewithin a tent, even within a family compound,is becomingless secure because tents are more difficult to lock. Residing within the family compoundis all the more importantfor securityunder such conditions.For this reason,my hosts in 1995 encouraged me to reside within a small mud house with a door that could be locked more easily, which was located within their compound next to grass structuresand another mud house. By 1995 the wife in this family had droppedher nomadicmat tent. A few women had done this, explainingthat palm fibers resourceswere more scarce due to men's use of them in house roofs. But this abandonment the tent is still highly unusual of

25

among Kel Ewey women, and most retain the nomadictent alongsidetheir husbands'houses. 9Traditionally Tuareg society is stratifiedinto hereditary, endogamousoccupationalgroups of nobles, blacksmiths,and tributary and formerly servile peoples. There have been as changes in social stratum roles and relationships, well as for their bases of powerand access to resources: example,slavery has been abolishedand many nobles are today impoverished (Rasmussen1992a, 1994). But in ruralareas social stratum identificationis still importantfor prestige, and clientpatron relationshipspersist in modifiedform between nobles and blacksmiths.Each noble family has a smith family atact tached to it, who performpraise-songs, arrangemarriages, manufacture as go-betweens, jewelryand householditems,and recite genealogies.In return, nobles are supposedto provide smiths with food and cash gifts, for example,by bringingthem millet fromcaravantrade.Since smithsfulfillmanydiplomatic and go-betweenfunctions,noblestend to deploysmithsas buffwith the outside world, for example, in ers or intermediaries In tax-collection and food relief distribution. towns smiths are active in the tourist trade. Thus many travellerswho do not are speak Tamacheqor lack local connections lodgedin blacksmith households.Smiths are oral historiansfor several reasons. They are unrelatedto nobles (due to endogamy),and nobles say that "smithshave no reserve,"so smiths may say what noblesfind shamefulto say. Thus much cultureand history are transmittedby smiths, and smiths often make excellent informants. since they may conveya specificviewpoint Yet becausethey are considered othersand considerthemselves by to to be "outsiders" Tuaregculture.Throughout researchI my cultivatedindividuals diversesocial strataas friendsand obof tained assistancefrom nobles,smiths, and formerslaves, men of and women,at differenttimes. For furtherdiscussion Tuareg smiths,see Bernus(1981), Rasmussen (1992a: 105-128;1992b: 155-175), and Abarkaand Casajus (1992). include sensitive and genealogy-making 'oCensus-taking topics such as propertyin livestockherds,which are often implicated in governmentcontrol schemes. Moreover,Tuareg nobles cannot pronouncecertain propernames-in particular names of deceasedancestorson the paternalside--due to respect and reserve relationships.Thus genealogiesshould be taken in the privacyof the tent, and certain names provided only by persons less restrainedby noble values of reserve, namely,smiths (Rasmussen1991, 1992a, 1993).

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