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Northern Chad: anarchy and social cohesion, or neither?

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The Tubu of northern Chad have long been described as ‘anarchic’, in first travellers’ accounts as much as in the (scarce) colonial sources. They have maintained this reputation until now, among outsiders as well as among their fellow Chadians, despite (or perhaps because of) their undeniable influence on Chadian state institutions. This reputation is echoed in the meagre academic literature: the only full-length ethnography on Tubu-speaking people (in Niger rather than Chad, published by Catherine Baroin in 1985) is called ‘Anarchy and social cohesion among the Tubu’. This paper is a reflection on this title, not in order to criticise Baroin’s ethnography, but rather to push the reflection on its key terms further: how useful are the concepts both of ‘anarchy’ and ‘social cohesion’ for understanding ethnographic material collected in 2012 in Faya-Largeau, the major town in northern Chad? And, more generally, how useful are they as (anthropological) categories of analysis?

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series series.

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