Sovereignty in Pre-colonial Mali and Northern Africa

  • Christopher Wise


This chapter investigates pre-colonial notions of black African political sovereignty in Northwest Africa that predate the long history of Arab and European imperial ventures in the region. What this chapter shows is not simply that Mali existed as a sovereign state in the years prior to its colonization, both Arab and European, but that Malians understood very well how sovereign states are politically instituted, and that they had developed their own complex thinking of sovereignty and its pragmatic institution long before articulations of the concept of sovereignty by European philosophers like Bodin, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Malian texts discussed include the Tarikh al fattash, Tarikh al sudan, The Epic of Askia Mohammed, and chronicles about Al Hajj Umar Tall and the Umarian Tijaniyya of Northern Mali. In this chapter, Wise then goes on to show the relevance of Malian conceptions of sovereignty and its institution in pre-colonial Mali, in relation to Obama-Clinton “humanitarian” interventions in Libya in 2011 and post-Gaddafi, Arabist, and Wahhabi efforts to create the independent state of Azawad in northern Mali.


Sovereignty Maki North africa Nation-state State system Postcolonial state Sahelian culture Tarikh al fattish Tarikh al sudan Conjuration The epic of askia mohammed Jean bodin Thomas hobbes 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Wise
    • 1
  1. 1.Western Washington UniversityBellinghamUSA

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