A Little to One Side: Caregiving, Spatial Seclusion, and Spiritual Border-Crossing in Frail Old Age among the Tuareg (Kel Tamajaq)

Susan Rasmussen


This essay examines the meanings of the seclusion of frail elders and the roles of small children who act as their primary caregivers in rural Tuareg communities of  northern Niger, and explores the implications of these arrangements for intergenerational relationships. Data suggests that both cosmological and socioeconomic forces shape the seclusion and caregiving of frail elders. It is argued that, despite some physical decline and social withdrawal in these circumstances, particularly on approaching death,  nonetheless there is enhanced spiritual power in which these elders and their small caregivers cross thresholds toward new sources of meaning. More broadly, the essay contributes to debates over the meanings of disengagement over the life course and the semiotics of peripheral and secluded spaces.


aging; life course; religion; symbolism; disengagement theory; household cycle; Africa

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/aa.2012.30


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Copyright (c) 2018 Susan Rasmussen

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