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Grant number like: FA-50284-04

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Mahir Saul
Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Champaign, IL 61801-3620)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 9/30/2004

Local Politics of Decolonization in West Africa

The project is the completion of a book on the anthropological history of an area in the West African savanna where I conducted fieldwork and archival research for many years, south western Burkina Faso and the adjacent areas of Mali and northern Cote d'Ivoire. The book's subject is the political organization of the area's farming population from the precolonial nineteenth century to the years of independence after 1960. It focuses on village life and local transformations, but engages critically with colonial administration, Catholic missions and conversion to Islam, and the way markets and taxation motivated local actors to change and to confrontation. The way changing circumstances fostered conflicts within the local communities and the appropriation of extra-local conceptual elements in the century long development constitute an important legacy for the politics of the period of independence. The study is informed by a theoretical understanding of human agency and of historical process unfolding in an open-ended way in response to contingent situations. Parts of the book have been written and a few articles on various themes that are included in the book have been published. I plan to write the remaining parts and to complete the book for submission in Europe, where I will find support from many experts of the area of investigation, where the colonial archives are located in case I need a further consultation during the writing, and where one can find many other resources for the study of colonial institutions in West Africa. I already possess an invitation to the College de France in Paris for six months and am waiting to learn the outcome of a fellowship application to the Wissenschaftkolleg zu Berlin in Germany. These residencies will take place during a sabbatical leave I have for 2004 and I am asking for the NEH fellowship to complement my resources during this leave.