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Book chapter Book chapter Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Herders, traders and clerics: the impact of trade, religion and warfare on the evolution of Moorish society
Author:Ould Cheikh, Abdel WedoudISNI
Book title:Herders, warriors, and traders: pastoralism in Africa / ed. by John G. Galaty and Pierre Bonte. - Boulder, Col. [etc.]: Westview Press
Geographic terms:Western Sahara
Subjects:social structure
ethnic groups
Abstract:The Moors make up the majority of the population of contemporary Mauritania and former Spanish Sahara, now Western Sahara. Prior to the 1970s the mainstay of their nomadic way of life was the husbandry of camels, cattle, sheep and goats. This chapter examines various interpretations of events that may have represented a turning point in the establishment of hierarchical political structures in Moorish society. These events are known as 'Shurbubba', a seventeenth-century war in the Gibla region (southwestern Mauritania), in which a coalition made up mostly of 'hassan' (warriors) fought against another coalition headed by 'zwaya' (clerics). This conflict highlights the importance of both trade and Islam in the social organization of Moorish nomadism. After a short discussion of Moorish history before the 17th century, the chapter focuses upon the 'Shurbubba' War and interpretations of it. Next, it examines hypotheses that seek to explain the Moorish social order. According to one hypothesis, Moorish status groups, in particular warriors and clerics, have an ethnic origin, since 'Arab' conquerors supposedly subjugated 'Berbers'. Another interpretation accounts for the distinction between these two dominant groups in terms of a structural duality, a segmentary opposition through which Moorish society maintained and 'ordered anarchy'. Yet another explanation of the warrior-cleric antagonism takes the Moorish social order to be the reflection of the tensions and contradictions of its economic infrastructure. Notes, ref.