HomeGéographies du Sahara : nouveaux enjeux de recherche et renouvellement des méthodes

HomeGéographies du Sahara : nouveaux enjeux de recherche et renouvellement des méthodes

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Published on Monday, August 22, 2022


The Sahara is one of the most difficult regions in the world for researchers to access. Despite this, geographical research on the Sahara remains dynamic. A desert space often considered as "empty", it offers strong and constantly renewed problems and issues: desertification, resource management and gold rush, migration and smuggling, border issues, etc. At the time of the Anthropocene, what can living, working and circulating on the margins of the ecumene teach us today? Three axes are proposed: memories, mutations, marginalities and Saharan centralities.


Scientific coordination

  • Crépy Maël (Scientific Member IFAO, UMR5133 Archéorient)
  • Gagnol Laurent (Senior Lecturer University of Artois, UR 2468 Discontinuités)


The Sahara is an area that has long attracted the curiosity of scientists in general and geographers and cartographers in particular, both from the point of view of human geography and physical geography. The world's largest desert has fascinated many outside observers due to its people’s ability to live in such a constrained environment, at the limit of habitability. Moreover, Saharan environments and landscapes offer traces inherited from the past and incomparable forms of continuity. In the long term, the evolutionary trajectory of the Saharais in line with geohistorical constants. One of the clearest of these is undoubtedly the mobility of populations, often considered in the light of the constraints linked to the aridity and mineral nature of the landscapes. Circulation is crucial because the Saharans have never relied solely on the resources of the desert to continue livingthere.

Focusing too much on invariances and survivals could lead to neglecting the plural and above all very dynamic nature of Saharan geographical realities. From every point of view, there is a continuousrecompositionofenvironments,landscapesandpopulations,aswellasoftheiragro- pastoral and extractive activities, conflicts, the management of mobility by States and the governance of these territories on the borders of States, etc. The Sahara thus clearly appears as an area to be studied in itself and in continuity with its Sahelian and Mediterranean shores, for what it brings to the reading of the past (paleoenvironments and climatic variations or long- distance commercial mobility systems, for example), but also to understand the evolution of our contemporary world through one of its emblematicmargins.

Nevertheless, it is also one of the most difficult regions in the world for scientists to access, partly due to factors that lead to the richness of the scientific questions mentioned above: climate and environmental conditions that involve complex logistics, insecurities and geopoliticalconflicts,administrativerestrictionsonforeignresearchersfromtravellingtothese regions considered to be at risk. Despite all these difficulties, geographical research on the Sahara remains dynamic. A desert space often considered as "empty", the Sahara offers strong and constantly renewed problems and issues: desertification, resource management and gold rush, migration and smuggling, border issues,etc.

In order to continue to carry out research on the Sahara, the 'traditional' empirical methods (in particular the field survey) have necessarily had to be adapted. Some of these methods are already functional, while others have yet to be initiated or invented. New combinationsofsources and analyses can be used to compensate for the absence of direct analysis in the field and even to develop innovative approaches. The careful rereading of travel and exploration accounts, the analysis of freely available, high-resolution satellite imagery and artificial intelligence, indirect survey devices, work based on filmed images and socialnetworks,etc. are all elements of methodological innovation that renew the analysis of Saharan geographies.

In the age of the Anthropocene, what can inhabiting, exploiting and circulating on the margins of the ecumene still teach us today? This issue thus proposes to consider Saharan geographies in a very broad and reflexive way, both from a spatial point of view (from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea) and from a thematic point of view (urban, rural, geopolitical, socio- anthropological, economic, environmental, etc.), as well as from the temporalities of analysis: contemporary as well as medium/long term by integrating geohistorical and geoarchaeological aspects. Other disciplines that are interested in the spatial and environmental dimension orthat mobilise geographical approaches are also encouraged to participate in this transdisciplinary issue. Young researchers are particularly invited to present their approaches, while experienced researchers are invited to report on the evolution of research themes and conditions in the Sahara.

Three axes are proposed: memories, mutations, marginalities and Saharan centralities.The proposals can thus, on the one hand, consider Saharan geographies from the memory of landscapes and populations, highlighting constants, forms of continuity and resilience, and slow or abrupt evolutions over the long term; on the other hand, the contributions can emphasise current mutations, emergences and dynamics, the lines and points of tension, tipping points and bifurcation.Finally, other proposals may articulate the ambivalence of the analyses, depending on whether they consider the Sahara as a national or global periphery or whether they adopt a gaze centred on Saharan issues in order to take account of more global perspectives.

Submission guidelines

We expect a title and an abstract (2000 characters maximum)

by September 10, 2022.

Abstracts must be sent to : laurent.gagnol@univ-artois.fr ; crepy.mc@gmail.com ; secretariat.ouestsaharien@gmail.com

Return of the texts by December 20, 2022.

The three languages of publication are French, English and Spanish.

It is envisaged that a seminar will be organised during the editorial process.

Page presenting the journal and the conditions of publication

Editorial committee

Marta Amico (Université de Rennes), Nadia Belalimat (CNRS), Yazid Benhounet (CNRS), Pierre Boilley (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Sébastien Boulay (Université Paris Descartes), Francesco Correale (CNRS), Abdel Wedoud Ould Cheikh (Université de Lorraine), Cristina Figueiredo (Université Paris Descartes), Charles Grémont (IRD), Olivier Leservoisier (Université Paris Descartes), Emmanuel Martinoli (Docteur en médecine), Abderrahmane Moussaoui (Université de Lyon 2), Catherine Taine-Cheikh (CNRS), Robert Vernet (IMRS), Mohamed Baba (Université Clermont Auvergne), Yahia Zoubir (Kedge Business School, Marseille), Olivier Schinz (Musée d'Ethnographie de Neuchâtel).

Indicative bibliography

Afane A. et Gagnol L., 2021, « Une ruée vers l’or contemporaine au Sahara : l’extractivisme aurifère informel au nord du Niger»,VertigO - la revue électronique en sciences del'environnement, vol. 20, n°3,http://journals.openedition.org/vertigo/29044

Belalimat Nadia, 2019, « Réseaux sociaux, nouveaux médias et territoires au Sahara »,inBoulay S. et Fanchette S. (dir.),La question des échelles en sciences humaines et sociales, Versailles et Montpellier, Éditions Quae et IRD Éditions, pp. 123-140.

Bennafla K., 2013, « Illusion cartographique au Nord, barrière de sable à l’Est : les frontières mouvantes du Sahara occidental »,L’Espace Politique, 20-2,http://journals.openedition.org/espacepolitique/2644

Bensaâd A. (dir.), 2011,L'eau et ses enjeux au Sahara. Karthala Editions.

Bisson J., 2003,Mythes et réalités d’un désert convoité. Le Sahara, L’Harmattan.

Brachet J., Choplin A. et Pliez O., 2011, « Le Sahara entre espace de circulation et frontière migratoire de l'Europe »,Hérodote, 142, pp.163-182

Bravard J.-P., 2019, « Water Resources and Irrigation in Two oases of the Western Desert of Egypt: Kharga and Dakhla », in Bagnall R. et Tallet G.,The great oasis of Egypt, 17-29.

Callot Y. et Crépy M., 2018, « Le rôle de l’alimentation en sable dans la dynamique des dunes linéaires : un changement de paradigme ? Approche croisée des apports de la modélisation et des observations de terrain (Erg de Fachi-Bilma, Niger, Tchad)»,Géomorphologie : relief,processus, environnement, 24 (3), 225 – 235.


Chena S., 2016, « Le Sahara déborde-t-il ? Migrations et perception d’une région en mouvement »,Cahiers d'Outre-Mer, 273, pp. 297-311.https://doi.org/10.4000/com.7774

CrépyM.etRedon B., àparaître2022,«WaterresourcesandtheirmanagementintheEastern Desert of Egypt from Antiquity to the present day Contribution of the accounts of modern travelers and early scholars (1769‑1951)»,in C. Durand, J. Marchand, B. Redon, P.Schneider (éd.),Networked spaces: the spatiality of networks in the Red Sea and the Western IndianOcean, Lyon, MOMÉditions.

Côte M., 2012,Signatures sahariennes, terroirs et territoires vus du ciel, Aix-en Provence, Presses Universitaires de Provence, 307 p.

Di Lernia S., N’Siala I.M., Mercuri A.M., Zerboni A., 2020, « Land use and cultivation in the etaghas of the Tadrart Acacus (south-west Libya): the dawn of Saharan agriculture ? »Antiquity, 94, 580-600.

Duckworth, C., Cuénod, A., & Mattingly, D. (Eds.), 2020,Mobile Technologies in theAncientSahara and Beyond(Trans-Saharan Archaeology). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108908047

Frérot A.-M., 2011,Imaginaires des Sahariens - Habiter le paysage. Paris, Editeur CTHS, Collection CTHS-Géographie, 181 p

Gagnol L., 2022, « Géohistoire des frontières sahariennes. L'héritage nomade enseveli sousles murs de sable».Bulletin de l'Association des géographes français, 99(1), pp. 53-75.https://doi.org/10.4000/bagf.9030

Gagnol L. et Ahmet Tchilouta R., 2021, « L’orpaillage au Sahara : un défi pour la stabilité des États »,Politique étrangère, vol. 86, n° 4, Dossier « Sahel : les sociétés contre l’État ? », pp. 187-200.https://www.cairn.info/revue-politique-etrangere-2021-4-page-187.htm

Grégoire E. (éd.), 2019, Géopolitique du Sahel et du Sahara,Hérodote, 172/1.

Hamamouche M. F., Kuper M., Amichi H., Lejars C., Ghodbani T., 2018, « New reading of Saharanagriculturaltransformation:continuitiesofancientoasesandtheirextensions(Algeria)

»,World Development, 107, 210-223.

Manière L., Crépy M., Redon B., 2021, « Building a Model to Reconstruct the Hellenistic and Roman Road Networks of the Eastern Desert of Egypt, a Semi-Empirical Approach Based on Modern Travelers’ Itineraries ».Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, Ubiquity Press, 2021, 4 (1), pp.20-46

Mattingly, D.J., Leitch, V., Duckworth, C.N., Cuenod, A., Sterry, M. and Cole, F. (eds), 2017,Trade in the Ancient Sahara and Beyond. Trans-Saharan Archaeology, Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and The Society for Libyan Studies.

McDougall J. et Scheele J. (dir.), 2012,Saharan Frontiers: Space and Mobility in NorthwestAfrica. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Pliez O., 2011,Les cités du désert : des villes sahariennes aux saharatowns. Marseille- Toulouse, IRD-PUM.

Scheele J., 2012,Smugglers and Saints of the Sahara. Regional Connectivity in the TwentiethCentury, New York, Cambridge University Press, 270 p.

Sterry, M. and Mattingly, D.J. (eds), 2020, State Formation and Urbanisation in the Ancient Sahara and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and The Society for Libyan Studies.

Tubiana J. et Gramizzi C., 2018,Lost in trans-nation. Tubu and Other Armed Groups andSmugglers along Libya's Southern Border, Small Arms Survey

Zerboni A. et Nicoll K., 2019, « Enhanced zoogeomorphological processes in North Africa in the human-impacted landscapes of the Anthropocene»,Geomorphology, 331 (2), DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2018.10.011



  • Saturday, September 10, 2022


  • Sahara


  • Laurent Gagnol
    courriel : laurent [dot] gagnol [at] univ-artois [dot] fr

Information source

  • Laurent Gagnol
    courriel : laurent [dot] gagnol [at] univ-artois [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Géographies du Sahara : nouveaux enjeux de recherche et renouvellement des méthodes », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, August 22, 2022, https://calenda.org/1012560

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