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African DominionA New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa$
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Michael A. Gomez

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196824

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196824.001.0001

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The Meanings of Sunjata and the Dawn of Imperial Mali

The Meanings of Sunjata and the Dawn of Imperial Mali

(p.61) Chapter Five The Meanings of Sunjata and the Dawn of Imperial Mali
African Dominion

Michael A. Gomez

Princeton University Press

This chapter assesses the narrative of the rise of imperial Mali and the life of its founder, Sunjata. Sunjata and Mali's origins are at the center of an involved discussion of sources and method. As such, a layering of testimony is critical to uncovering Mali's imperial transformation, and more important than whether it was completed under Sunjata is the subsequent deployment of his person and period as vehicles of authentication. Perhaps the most poignant example of this is Sunjata's exile, for which issues of historicity fade in comparison with its purpose as a charter for central and provincial power. Similarly, the conquest of the Susu, though highly probable, also establishes the basis for Mali's enduring regional claims. The oral traditions also contain key insights into early Mali's relationship to Islam, evincing a careful balancing act between ancestral and Islamic principles and forces.

Keywords:   imperial Mali, Sunjata, Mali, provincial power, Susu, Islam, Islamic principles

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