1 One thousand Communaté financière africaine (cfa) francs were then
worth about two U.S. dollars.
2 Although this story circulated on radio trottoir (‘‘sidewalk radio,’’ the
word on the street), I heard this particular version from the Malian
scholar Amidu Magasa (personal communication, Bamako, 20 July
1999). On radio trottoir as a historical source, see Ellis, ‘‘Writing Histo-
ries of Contemporary Africa,’’ 19. On rumor and gossip as sources of
African history, see White, Speaking with Vampires.
3 Radio trottoir and Diawara, ‘‘Mande Oral Popular Culture Revisited by
the Electronic Media.’’ Traore ruled from 1968 to 1991. Before indepen-
dence in 1960, he was a noncommissioned o≈cer in the French army.
4 This incident and the debate surrounding it are analyzed further in the
chapter five.
5 Nicholas Dirks poses similar questions in his work on the concept of
‘‘caste’’ in colonial and postcolonial India, which is discussed in chapter 1:
Dirks, Castes of Mind. Crucially, while caste in India was a category of
colonial governmentality, slavery in French West Africa was not.
6 In this book, ‘‘Western Sudan’’ refers to the region of Western Sudanic
Africa, which comprises the savannah and the more arid Sahel (derived
from the Arabic word for coast), the zone that lies between the savannah
and the Sahara desert. The area includes parts of Senegal, Mali, Niger,
Burkina Faso, and northern Côte d’Ivoire.
7 This perspective is informed by Feierman, ‘‘African Histories and the
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