Contested Performances: At the Crossroads of Local and Global Aesthetic Knowledge and Practice in "Modern" Urban Tamajaq (Tuareg) Theater in Northern Mali
- Anthropological Quarterly
- George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
- Volume 83, Number 4, Fall 2010
- pp. 753-782
- Additional Information
This essay, based upon this author's cultural anthropological field research among the Tamajaq-speaking Tuareg in the town of Kidal in northern Mali, documents diversity even in local voices by examining local concepts of changing aesthetics in contemporary plays widely considered "modern" by Tamajaq-speaking residents, but which are also part of their local performing arts category called isatsa. Some plays emerged from recent NGO and media-directed theatrical programs, but others emerged from more longstanding poetry, songs, and tales. The data reveal a continued valuing of local cultural production, despite multiple factors integrated into its formation, suggesting more broadly that terms and labels in artistic production are always situated, negotiable, and interested. The essay contributes to wider efforts to translate local aesthetics of verbal art performance across cultural knowledge systems, and to explore how local art forms and those who practice them are situated and situate themselves in broader political contexts. Longstanding expressive forms are not simply shaped by local and/or global forces, but are reflected on, exploited, and adapted in a range of processes fueled by ideologies, current events, and political and economic interests.