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Cultural Heritage in Mali in the Neoliberal Era$
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Rosa De Jorio

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040276

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040276.001.0001

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The Fate of Timbuktu’s Sufi Heritage

The Fate of Timbuktu’s Sufi Heritage

Controversies around Past Traces and Current Practices

(p.116) 5. The Fate of Timbuktu’s Sufi Heritage
Cultural Heritage in Mali in the Neoliberal Era

Rosa De Jorio

University of Illinois Press

This chapter deals with the destruction of the Sufi saints' mausoleums (a World Heritage Site) during the six-month occupation of Mali's northern regions by Tuareg-Islamist forces. Prior to the occupation, the government, foreign entities, and religious NGOs had deeply invested in the field of culture as a strategy to strengthen the influence of moderate Islam in Mali and to counter the Islamist groups' proselytizing in the north. The chapter investigates the symbolic implications the mausoleums' destruction held for different constituencies (e.g. Islamist groups, UNESCO representatives, the local heritage elite, Mali's religious leaders) and charts some of the unintended consequences of the incursions by state and quasi-state organizations into the religious sphere—actions that ultimately produced a conservative shift in the Muslim community. The chapter lends support to efforts promoted by some representatives of Mali's Ministry of Culture to sustain and diversify Mali's cultural patrimony by not limiting heritage work to the protection of Sufi shrines, and suggests the importance of considering some of the debates surrounding the protection and restoration of Sufi heritage sites in Mali today.

Keywords:   Sufi saints, mausoleums, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tuareg, Islamist groups, cultural patrimony, cultural heritage

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