Saharan migrant camel herders: znaga social status and the global age

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In the late 20th century, 300 Mauritanian shepherds travelled to the United Arab Emirates in order to tend the herds of some of that country's most prominent leaders. These low-tech subjects of global migration flows were particularly valued and sought after by their Emirati employers for their expertise in raising camels. I analyse the forms and consequences of this migration, focusing on the reintegration of these shepherds into Mauritanian stratified tribal spheres following their return to the Sahara. The possibility of a change in their social status (after a financially rewarding experience in the Gulf) will be a central theme of this article. This issue arises from the pervasive designation of these shepherds as a ‘tributary’ (znāga) group, through the application of the tripartite social model that, to a large extent, still defines Mauritania's arabophone population.
Original languagePortuguese
Pages (from-to)425-446
Number of pages21
JournalJournal Of Modern African Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Shepherds
  • Mauritania
  • South-western Sahara
  • Social status
  • Tribe (qabīla)
  • Emigration
  • Globalisation
  • United Arab Emirates

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