Cultural Production and Politics in Mali

  • Foreign interventions and transnational insurgencies in the Sahara-Sahel
  • Mapping urbanization in West Africa
  • Trans-Saharan Literacies: Writing across the Desert
  • Trans-Saharan Literacies: Writing across the Desert
  • Student activism and religious movements in Sahelian universities
  • Cities and Borders
  • Electoral Authoritarian Regimes and Civil-Military Relations in Sahelian Africa
  • The Politics of Electoral Reform in Francophone West Africa: the Birth and Change of Electoral Rules in Mali, Niger, and Senegal
  • Improving nutrition of women and children through livestock programming
  • Institutional Reform, Social Change, and Stability in Sahelian Africa
  • Religion and Educational Reform in the Sahel: Senegal, Mali, Niger
  • The Political Economy of Cotton Sector Reform in West Africa
  • Religion and Transnational Migration in the Sahel
  • Language and Society in the Sahel
  • Cultural Production and Politics in Mali
  • Understanding and integrating a gendered approach to climate information services in Senegal
  • Nutrition and Gender among Pastoralists in the Context of Climate Change
  • Development, security and climate change in the Sahel: Exchange program between UF, Sciences Po and UCAD
  • Investing in Home: Migration, Return, and Rural Development in the Senegal River Valley
  • Informal Institutions and State Management of Religious Activity in the Sahel
  • “Standing Up” for Pulaar: Activism and the Politics of Language Loyalty in Senegal and Mauritania
  • Cultural Production and Politics in Mali

    Alioune Sow

    Alioune Sow’s current research focuses on the critical relationship between literature, theater, cinema and political power in Mali during the military regime of 1968-1991, and in the period following the 1991 democratic transition.

    Malian Cultural production, politics and human rights

    This research examines how the military condition in Mali affected the configurations of cultural production, and how the latter engaged with the regime through varied responses, ranging from hesitant and elusive to forceful and dynamic, but most often problematic and strategized. The research also focuses on the changes that dramatically redefined cultural production since the democratization of the country in 1991. More specifically, as a way to look at how democratization provided new possibilities for Malian letters, the research explores the reconfigurations of the novel, the development of local literary practices such as the militant regional poetry of Albakaye Kounta, and the modalities to build a coherent literary history, with the rehabilitation of defunct literary figures, such as Fily Dabo Sissoko, or controversial writers, such as Yambo Ouologuem.

    Literature, democratization and memory practices

    Central to the research on democratic Mali is the relation of literature to memory practices and discourses. Looking at autobiographies and memoirs which have been published following the transition, this research project investigates the conditions of the restoration of narrative forms and genres that had been repressed and regulated by the multiple restrictions imposed by the military regime. The description and analysis of these literary forms, patterns and practices are combined with the examination of distinct motivations of writing, and are augmented by an assessment of the reception and circulation of these narratives written by former military officers, political prisoners or civil servants. This research looks at how literature responds to imperatives and obligations about the past, and how it contributes to the effervescence of memory that has revitalized segments of Malian culture kept dormant during certain periods of the country’s postcolonial history. The research ultimately demonstrates that the proliferation of memoirs very often challenges the consensual approach to the past noticed in other local memory discourses and practices. A sample of some covers from locally published political memoires and works can be found below.

    Malian popular theater and social movements

    This related project investigates the interaction between theatrical practices and social activism and explores consequent developments and shifts in Malian popular theater. At the centre of the investigation is the transformative impact of migration and how it has informed and shaped theatrical practices and aesthetics in the last 15 years.

    Representative Publications

    Sow, Alioune. 2011 “Malian Cinema and the Question of Military Power” Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture 8.

    Sow, Alioune. 2010. “Nervous Confessions: Military Memoirs and National Reconciliation in Mali” Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines 197(1): 69-93.

    Sow, Alioune. 2009. “Alternating views: Malian cinema, television serials and democratic experience” in Africa Today Volume 55, Number 4, Summer: 51-70.

    Sow, Alioune and Canut, C. 2014. “Testimonial Theater and Migration Performance”. Africa Today, Volume 61, No 2, Winter, 2014, pp. 3-21.

    Sow, Alioune. and Canut, C. ed. 2014. “Nous nous appelons les voyageurs : Mise en scène des parcours migratoires dans le théâtre des réfugiés d’Afrique centrale à Bamako”double issue Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines, LIV (1-2), 213-214.

    Sow, Alioune. ed. 2014. “Migration et comédie de réaction : Le Visa de Kanute” in C. Canut and C. Mazauric. La Migration prise aux mots, Paris, Le Cavalier bleu.

    Sow, Alioune and Mazauric, C. ed. 2013. “Littérature et migrations transafricaines” Etudes Littéraires Africaines. Vol 36, 2013.

    Sow, Alioune. 2004. “Tragédies élémentaires: ce que les astres ne disent pas”, Ponti / Ponts langues littératures civilisations des pays francophones 4, December.

    Sow, Alioune. 2002. “The curse of the sons or the betrayal of the fathers? Rethinking the family in contemporary Malian literature”, Mande Studies 4: 171-185.


    Book Covers