Folo Folo Kuma or A Prefatory Word
Before the events of late March 2012, most people - even those who regularly follow global news - probably had very little awareness of Mali, its location, its history, its culture, its challenges. Today, a large number of people across the globe have become aware of the country and its current predicament. Indeed, Mali has become a focal theme for discussion and analysis by journalists, pundits and even academics, many of whom have very little direct experience or knowledge of the region. This has not impeded some from issuing strongly worded pronouncements about the future of the peoples of the area or of the country's potential role in the realm of geopolitics and terrorism in particular.
Fortunately, as the months have worn on, keen observers of the scene - from afar and from close up - have endeavored to make sense of the events that have transpired over the last year or so and to help us to better understand the issues and processes that gave rise to them. Some these commentators have even begun to envision ways forward, tentative and fragile as they may be.
This forum is designed to highlight some of the most thoughtful and informed voices on Mali at the present moment. In addition to shedding light on key issues and concerns, I hope that the contributions here provide a gateway to a wider domain of commentary and analysis that I believe has the power to help transform thinking on Mali's current situation and future prospects. The contributors to this special forum represent some of the most seasoned and astute observers of the region and its complicated dynamics. They include academics working within the discipline of anthropology, scholars in allied fields such as history and religious studies, as well as an artist and an astute blogger. It is significant and important to me that the group includes sage Malian commentators. All of the contributors offer important insights and perspectives. With any luck this collection will inspire further engagement, discussion and commentary. I am grateful to my friends and colleagues for agreeing to join the forum, for their investment in its goals and commitments to the processes that it will foster. May our work honor the diverse peoples of Mali and help, in even a small way, to support the return of peace and security to the region.
Stephen Wooten is Associate Professor of International Studies and Anthropology at the University of Oregon.