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Genealogy and Knowledge in Muslim SocietiesUnderstanding the Past$
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Sarah Bowen Savant and Helena de Felipe

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748644971

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748644971.001.0001

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Embarrassing Cousins: Genealogical Conundrums in the Central Sahara

Embarrassing Cousins: Genealogical Conundrums in the Central Sahara

(p.89) Chapter 6 Embarrassing Cousins: Genealogical Conundrums in the Central Sahara
Genealogy and Knowledge in Muslim Societies

Judith Scheele

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter focuses on contemporary Central Saharan tawārīkh — more or less historic documents looking suspiciously like genealogies. It examines the debates over religious legitimacy, hierarchy and status, as well as the embarrassment that results when contrasting worldviews meet within ‘family’ settings in southern Algeria that are profoundly shaped by trans-Saharan mobility. It argues that tawārīkh are inherently hierarchical, and that all of them ultimately refer back to the qur'anic revelation whence they derive their differential moral value. As a body of texts, such genealogical documents carry within them the promise of universal order, with Islamic history becoming a template for the present and the future. This chapter concludes that, in the Central Sahara, outside connections and notions of range are central to local identities and social hierarchies, and that such connections are discussed within the context of genealogy that has come to subsume most historical writings.

Keywords:   tawārīkh, religious legitimacy, Algerian family settings, trans-Saharan mobility, universal order, Central Sahara, local identities, social hierarchies, genealogy

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