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Just a few decades ago, the great majority of Mauritanians were still nomads, living and moving in the Sahara Desert. Nowadays they represent less than two percent of the entire Mauritanian population. However, the centuries-old traditions and cultural practices they cultivated continue to enjoy a strong presence in current society. But, where, when and from whom does the nomadic Mauritanian cultural identity originate? Starting with a geographical overview, this book takes the reader on a journey through the arid desert landscape of Mauritania with its hidden mineral wealth and increasing desertification in order to illustrate that this environment has been responsible for shaping the nomadic way of life, from the animals they keep to the crafts they practice. It then delves into the country’s rich history, tracing the nomadic story through the centuries. Accounts of flourishing African empires to later Western colonization enable us to understand the myriad of cultural and religious influences that have contributed to the caste system, language, beliefs, and values of the nomads. With a firm geographical and historical grounding, ‘Nomads of Mauritania’ asserts that it is through their art that the nomads’ true cultural identity is revealed. For the nomads, artistic expression permeates every aspect of their everyday lives. Their artistic practice, whether it takes the form of body art or everyday objects, displays similar characteristics from its motifs to its meaning. In this book, it is defined for the first time as geometrical-abstract art and as ephemeral usual art and ephemeral living art, respectively. Now more than ever, with the increasing threat of climate change, overpopulation and globalization, the nomads of Mauritania are close to extinction. Thus, the authors reflect on the future prospects of both this vulnerable community and their cultural heritage, which is at the art of nomadic life.
Alexandra Plows, Bangor University
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$59 £43 €48
This edited collection of chapters showcases original and interdisciplinary ethnographic fieldwork in a range of international settings; including studies of underground pub life in North East England; Finnish hotels; and bio-scientific institutions in the Amazonian rainforest. Informed by John Law’s concept of ethnographic “mess,” this book makes a unique, empirically-informed, contribution to an understanding of the social construction of knowledge and the role that ethnography can and does play (Law, 2004). It provides a range of colourful snapshots from the field, showing how different researchers from multiple research environments and disciplines are negotiating the practicalities, and epistemological and ethical implications, of “messy” ethnographic practice as a means of researching “messy” social realities. Law notes that “social…science investigations interfere with the world…things change as a result. The issue, then, is not to seek disengagement but rather with how to engage” (ibid p14). Drawing on their own situated experiences, the book’s contributors address the “messy” implications of this and also explore the (equally messy) issue of why engage. They reflect on the process of undertaking research, and their role in the research process as they negotiate their own position in the field. What is ethnography “for”? What impact should, or do, we have in the field and after we leave the research site? What about unintended consequences? When (if ever) are we “off duty?” What does “informed consent” mean in a constantly shifting, dynamic ethnographic context? Is ethnography by its very nature a form of “action research?” By providing a wide range of situated explorations of “messy ethnographies,” the book presents a unique, hands-on guide to the challenges of negotiating ethnography in practice, which will be of use to all researchers and practitioners who use ethnography as a method.
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$53 £43 €50
The book provides readers with insights on how cultural landscapes are conceptualised under two major realms of tangible and intangible values as exemplified in this study of a rural Nupe community in central Nigeria. Equally important are the people-space and place relationship which results in a sense of place. The cultural values of communities are a product of both natural as well as the social setting which begins with the family. Accordingly, this book showcases how the concept of family structure shapes the architecture of the domestic space. Similarly, it also exemplifies how tangible and intangible cultural values are constituted within the domestic space as well as the entire cultural landscape. The uniqueness of this book is on the empirical evidence which is based on the documentation of an eight-month ethnographic study which brought about the native’s resident perception of their cultural landscape. This aligns with the global call in which UNESCO is at the forefront advocating the need for the preservation of values and identities of cultural landscapes. More also is that scholars in Human geography, Anthropology, Ethnography, Architecture and Cultural landscape studies can relate to the cultural transactions discussed in different chapters this book. The concluding chapter of this book gives the deductions drawn from the cultural landscape values of Nupe community which resulted in the formulation of Grounded Theory with spatial implications.