The Global History of Climate Change versus National History: The Example of Racial Conflict in Mauritania

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:28 PM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Alice Bullard, Law Center, Georgetown University
This paper focuses on the ethnic cleansing of 1989 in which Black Mauritanians were expelled from the army, their villages were destroyed, and some 100,000 were expelled into Senegal and Mali.  In Mauritania, these events have been understood in national political debates as racial violence.  Mauritanian human rights organizations routinely depict the events as an instance of ethnic cleansing aimed at creating a more Arab, and less Black African, Mauritanian nation. Such an ethnic politics coincides with the history of enslavement of Black Africans in Mauritania.  Global climate change, however, is a clear force behind these events.  Increasingly harsh conditions in the desert rendered it uninhabitable; in reaction to loss of habitat, some of the Arab-identified nomadic tribes moved southward, seizing more hospitable terrain from Black Mauritanians in the Senegal River Valley.  Global climate change as a driving forces of national events, however, has not entered Mauritanian narratives.  This paper investigates reasons why climate change has been excluded from the national history of these events and uses these events to reveal broader lessons about state power and the politics of global climate change and climate refugees.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation