Le Mali contemporain / Contemporary Mali

cover_mali_contemporainThe sudden collapse of Mali's democracy in 2012 came as a surprise and revealed the fragility of the State's legitimacy and authority. Only a few weeks ago, Bamako was again the scene of an attack by an extremist group with ties with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the Macina Liberation Front, a group active in central Mali. In fact, violent Islamist extremism has invaded the whole of the Sahel region, which has led to serious concerns about the developments in this region and the possible consequences for the rest of the world. These concerns are voiced in publications with titles such as Sahelistan, and more recently, Africanistan.

What is happening in Mali?  
According to the editors of  Le Mali contemporain (Éditions Tombouctou, 2014), edited by Joseph Brunet-Jailly, Jacques Charmes and Doulaye KonateĢ, the lack of information on the socio-political, economic and demographic changes that Mali has witnessed since its independence in 1960 has diminished an understanding of what is actually happening in Mali considerably. This collective work, with contributions by Malian and European researchers in the fields of the social sciences and the humanities, (the outcome of a conference held in Bamako in 2013), aims to remedy this knowledge deficit by describing contemporary Malian society, just before the crisis broke out. The book is organized in four parts.

The first part deals with the State, or rather the failure of the State, in important sectors of the society including education and land distribution. The State has lost the monopoly on the use of force and firearms, in order to protect the public. The fragility of the country's parliament further weakens the legitimacy of the State and popular discontent has at this time no formal political outlet.

The second part examines the position and role of religion, notably the Islam. The role of Islam in defining a national cultural identity comes to the fore and with it the quest to 'reinvent' Islamic cultural heritage. The question if  there is a real drive for a 're-Islamization' of society is debated extensively.

The third part deals with different aspects of the position of young Malian society. Young people form a major part of the population, but their voice is stifled by  the traditional rights of the elderly over the young, patronage, corruption and youth unemployment.

Urbanization and migration
The last part explores the processes of urbanization and migration, which have led to structural transformations in Malian society.

This important but unfortunately rare book was kindly donated to the library by one of our researchers. It was published in Bamako, by Éditions Tombouctou, which has also published another interesting work: Le Mali : entre doutes et espoirs : réflexions sur la nation à l'épreuve de la crise du Nord (edited by Doulaye Konaté).

Cultural life in Mali
In order to get a broader and more complete picture of contemporary Malian society, the ASC library also offers a large collection of films and novels, which provide us with a more personal, intimate view on current developments and deepens our understanding of what it means to be a citizen of Mali today. See for example, the novel Koulouba : la colline du pouvoir : histoire d'amour dans un Mali en pleine révolte  (Habi Bamba) or the feature film Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako). See also: Music, culture and conflict in Mali (Andy Morgan).


December 2015
Elvire Eijkman