The fabled city of Timbuktu has recently been a center of conflict between the French military and Islamic militants. Complicating the clash are tensions within Mali among the country's ethnic groups. In a live "Office Hours" webcast interview Feb. 8, Duke professor Bruce Hall explains some of the historical and cultural context of the conflict.
"There is nothing 'less racial' about the situation in Northern Mali because of a history of 'mixing' than anywhere else," Hall told the International Business Times in an article published last week. "Race is not about the biology; it is about the ideas and practices that link biological traits to value which are claimed to be transmissible inter-generationally.
"In fact, in the absence of a strong international security presence, it seems very likely to me that racialized violence will occur on a much greater scale than it has so far," he said.
Joining Hall is Duke senior Jennifer Denike, who completed a study abroad program in Mali in the fall of 2011.
Hall is the author of "A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960." At Duke, he is an assistant professor of history and African and African American Studies. This year he is a visiting scholar at Stanford University and participated in the interview via Skype.
"Office Hours" is Duke's live webcast series for the university community, and others, to engage with professors about their research and scholarship.