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Recent archaeological research has shown that Garamantian civilisation was much more extensive than previously thought, allowing for surprisingly high population density, agricultural exploitation and urbanisation. This, then, poses the question of how to make sense of the available material, and how to best describe the Garamantian polity and its evolution. Several aspects of the archaeological and historical record are at issue here: the nature of settlements and their interrelation, their connections with the surrounding political and economic landscape, their ecology and economic base, and the nature and organisation of their polity. Most recent publications have interpreted these features as necessary components of one coherent political complex, conveniently labelled as an ‘early state’. Thus, Wilson describes the Garamantes as a ‘substantial agriculturally-based trading state’.
Despite being central to the development of Saharan regional connectivity, northern Chad has been closed to researchers since the late 1960s and thus remains virtually unknown to scholarship. Based on long-term fieldwork, The Value of Disorder is an original and in-depth account of the area and its Tubu majority inhabitants. Julien Brachet and Judith Scheele examine trans-border connectivity and trade; civil war and rebellion; wealth creation and dispersal; labour and gender relations; and aspirations to moral autonomy in northern Chad from an internal point of view - a point of view that in turn participates in a dynamic process of regional interdependence. Vividly ethnographic, the book gives precedence to local categories of value, while asking broader questions about the nature of non-state regional political organisation. Questions that inform current political developments in the Sahara more widely, and have the potential to challenge key concepts in Saharan studies and the social sciences.