History Faculty Database
Arts & Sciences
Duke University

 HOME > Arts & Sciences > History > Faculty    Search Help Login pdf version printable version 

Publications [#295465] of Bruce S. Hall

Journal Articles

  1. Hall, BS, Arguing sovereignty in Songhay, Afriques: Débats, methods et terraines d’histoire, vol. 4 (2013), pp. 1-17
    (last updated on 2017/12/17)

    Recent archaeological, historical, and anthropological literature on the development of social and political complexity in Africa challenges older models of state formation that once informed the understanding of medieval Sahelian empires such as Songhay. We now know that there were multiple paths to complexity that did not necessarily lead to state formation, and that there was a heterarchical distribution of power in many African political formations. Despite this, the historiography of pre-colonial states in Sahelian West Africa, and of the role of Islam in these political formations, retains an attachment to a particular model of statehood derived from Arabic geographies and chronicles. Emphasis continues to be placed on military power and a largely ambivalent relationship between Islam and indigenous forms of authority. In this article, I offer a reinterpretation of the exercise and rhetoric of sovereignty in imperial Songhay by focusing on some of the ways in which Islamic authority was claimed and contested by its rulers. I argue that Songhay rulers claimed a religious authority that far outstripped their coercive power. Instead of an ambivalent relationship between the Muslim religious estate and secular power, Islamic religious authority was the principal basis of Songhay rulers’ claims to extensive power.

Duke University * Arts & Sciences * History * Faculty * Staff * Grad * Reload * Login