In Search of Tunga
Prosperity, Almighty God, and Lives in Motion in a Malian Provincial Town
University of Michigan Press, 2022
This monograph of Muslim life focuses on young male migrants of rural origin who move to build better lives in Bougouni, a provincial town of southwest Mali. Describing themselves as ‘simply Muslims’ and ‘adventurers’, these migrants aim to be both prosperous and good Muslims. Based on 18 months of fieldwork, author André Chappatte explores their sense of prosperity and piety in what they call ‘tunga’ (adventure), a customary search of money and more dating back from thecolonial period.
In the context of the current Global War on Terrorism, most studies of Muslim life have focused on the politics of piety of reformist movements, their leaders and members. By contrast,
In Search of ‘Tunga’ takes a perspective from below. It opens piety up to ‘simply Muslims’, although the religious elites have always claimed authority and legitimacy over piety. Is piety an exclusive field of experiences for those who claim to strive for it? What does piety involve for the majority of Muslims, the non- elite and unaffiliated Muslims? This monograph “democratizes” piety by documenting its practice as going beyond sharply defined religious affiliations and Islamic scholarship and as both alive and normative, existential and prescriptive. As opposed to studies who build on the classic historical connections between the Maghreb and the Sahel, the southbound migration from the Sahel documented in this book stresses the overlooked historical connections between the southern shores of the Sahara (Sahel) and lands south of these shores (savanna). It demonstrates how the Malian savanna, this former buffer-zone between ancient Mande Kingdoms and thereafter remote area of French Sudan, is increasingly becoming all but not marginal in today’s Sahel contexts of desiccation and insecurity.