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Weaving the World

Weaving the World

(p.116) 15 Weaving the World
The Power of the Between
University of Chicago Press

This chapter details the author's dilemma on how to write about the fascinatingly complex networks of West African merchants. One day he began thinking about Songhay weavers. Like Songhay sorcerers, weavers are people who are comfortable in their skin. In Songhay weavers are called cakey, and they pass their skill and knowledge across the generations from father to son. He realized that the various stories of West African traders revealed a complex pattern, and yet the stories had to be connected in order to weave a complete blanket—to weave the world. And so, he used social analysis—of transnationalism, of the West African culture of trade, of contemporary immigration, of U.S. state power in its local, regional, and national aspects, of the social alienation of Muslim West Africans in the secular United States. The result was a book in which he tried, like the Songhay weaver, to connect the individual to the group, the neighborhood to the world, and the narrative to its larger context.

Keywords:   West African merchants, anthropologists, Songhay weavers, social analysis

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