Speaker: Ann McDougall, University of Alberta
Hratin (pl) are both black and white, slave and free. In the Sahara, construed to embrace the northern and southern Sahelian margins of Morocco and Mauritania, hratin are variably the living legacy of a shameful past, proud descendants of powerful families or cultivators, mostly but not exclusively in date-palm groves. Hratin are also social constructs, specific to time, place and class, whose perceptions of themselves have long been dynamic and volatile.
Today, they are crucial voices in their respective fledgling democracies. Yet, to much of the world, hratin are invisible. My paper draws on data generated by a four-year project based on this multifaceted phenomenon. I will try to explain more fully why our efforts to define the hratin have been in vain, but also why an endeavor to understand the hratin as social dynamic remains crucial.