38 / 2013
Ines Kohl

Vagabonds or Elites? The Mobile Lifestyle of Contemporary Tuareg


A large proportion of contemporary Tuareg no longer move in traditional nomadic cycles, but accord- ing to individual choice. Always on the move and in search of making a living, they drift between the Saharan states. Relatives and friends provide lodging; a small bag of personal effects and a mobile phone with beloved modern Tuareg guitar music complete their appearance. Their lifestyle may be characterized by the term “vagabonds”, but I shall argue that these people may also be seen as a certain elite of their society because of their mobility strategies. In my case study of Nigerian Tuareg moving between Niger, Algeria and Libya I respond to the characteristics of their mobility and lifestyle. I shall illustrate their strategies in dealing with the borders of the Saharan nation states, and clarify that “vagabonds” and “elites” are not inevitably mutually exclusive terms, and that moving may not be an exception of normal life, but can be the rule.

KEY WORDS: Tuareg, mobility, transnationality, elites, vagabonds