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Sciences de l'Homme 1987. 
Although the central róle of the tent in nomadic life has been recognised in titles such as Ras- 
wan's, the nature of that róle has until now been largely neglected. Here at last it is adequately 
explored within the now classic French framework of two counterpoised poles. The tent is pre- 
sented as the permanent setting for the continuity in Kel Ferwan society, in juxtaposition to the 
surrounding emptiness which threatens it, personified by the kel esuf “those of the wastes”, es- 
sentially the malevolent spirits of those whose identity has not been preserved. This permanence 
is both conceptual, as established in tent form as an image of the cosmos, hence following divine 
ordinance since the beginning of time, and actual in the sense that, on the marriage of an elder 
daughter, she inherits her mother’s own tent, which she in turn will maintain with newly-woven 
matting, before passing it on in due course to her own daughter. As the domain and actual pro- 
perty of the woman, and her home with a possible succession of husbands, the tent stands in the 
same relation to the female world as the veil to the male: a man, essentially tentless unless accep- 
ted by a woman, wears his veil permanently as a protection against the kel esuf in the outside 
world, and to be worthy of God’s benificence, just as a woman shelters from the spirits in her 
tent, which must be secured by particular rituals at times of marriage and birth, or celebrations 
of its sanctity. 
The camp, by contrast, is presented as a male domain, the site chosen by men, and its tents 
grouped patrilineally; as such it is impermanent not only in spatial terms but as a social unit, ten- 
ding to disperse when the authority of the dominant male fails, or when the number of grand- 
children exceeds acceptable limits. Thus whereas the tent is constantly renewed, the fabric of the 
camp, represented by its folds of thorn bushes, ages and ultimately fails. The movement between 
camps, and through the wastes, appears to threaten the permanence of Tuareg society while ac- 
tually guaranteeing its survival by assuring new pasture on the one hand, and new brides and 
Progeny on the other. While a man must leave his mother's tent at adolescence, and remain effec- 
tively roofless until he marries and is received in his wife's tent, he remains in his camp while it is


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