Fabled for more than three thousand years as fierce warrior-nomads and cameleers dominating the western Trans-Saharan caravan trade, today the Sahrawi are admired as soldier-statesmen and refugee-diplomats. This is a proud nomadic people uniquely championing human rights and international law for self-determination of their ancient heartlands: the western Sahara Desert in North Africa. Konstantina Isidoros provides a rich ethnographic portrait of this unique desert society in one of Earth's most extreme ecosystems. Her extensive anthropological research, conducted over eleven years, illuminates an Arab-Berber Muslim society in which men wear full face veils and are matrifocused toward women, who are the property-holders of tent households forming powerful matrilocal coalitions. Isidoros offers new analytical insights on gender relations, strategic tribe-to-state symbiosis and the tactical formation of 'tent cities'.
This book sheds light on the indigenous principles of social organization – the centrality of women, male veiling and milk kinship – bringing positive feminist perspectives on how the Sahrawi have innovatively reconfigured their tribal nomadic pastoral society into globalizing citizen-nomads constructing their nascent nation state. This is essential reading for those interested in anthropology, politics, war and nationalism, gender relations, postcolonialism, international development, humanitarian regimes, refugee studies and the experience of nomadic communities.