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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:What's in an Alias? Family Names, Individual Histories, and Historical Method in the Western Sudan
Author:Mann, GregoryISNI
Periodical:History in Africa
Geographic term:Mali
family names
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Education and Oral Traditions
Labor and Employment
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3172166
Abstract:Family names were adopted, rejected, and imposed with great ease and by a variety of actors in the Western Sudan during the colonial period. This fact complicates tremendously the ability to tie together oral and written sources. In particular, frequent shifts in family names and the adoption of aliases make it difficult to trace individuals across distinct registers of evidence. Nevertheless, the ability to do just that was crucial to the author's research on military veterans in Mali. Having gathered both army personnel records and oral histories, how was the author to match such disparate genres and to create a 'dialogue' between two separate and highly particular bodies of information? More broadly, what did the fluidity of family names imply about social structure and the operation of chiefly and administrative power in the colonial system? Like the study of the military itself, an investigation of name changing offers great potential for understanding the ways in which power was refracted in French West Africa's post-slavery societies. Based on the author's research in San (central Mali), this paper explores renaming as evidence both of social subordination - whether as a temporary imposition or as a result of longer-term slavery - and of liberation or 'escape' from slave status and from the agents of the colonial State. Bibliogr., notes, ref.