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Islamic and Caste Knowledge Practices among Haalpulaaren in Senegal

Between Mosque and Termite Mound

Roy Dilley

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This book examines in historical perspective the hitherto little-studied relationship between Islam and caste among the Haalpulaaren of Senegal. The Islamic uprising of the 1770s, which established a class of Islamic clerics in positions of authority in the Senegal river valley, had long-term consequences for the social relations between clerics and caste groups. The book examines how at different historical junctures attempts were made to negotiate the equalitarian claims of a universalist faith with the expression of social differentiation lying at the heart of caste inequality. While the existing literature focuses on those who established Islam within the region, this present work provides insights into how marginalised artisans, poets and musicians understood themselves and how they responded to a faith which had become the cornerstone of social prestige and status. It analyses the knowledge practices of clerics and of specialised craft groups, arguing that they are crucial for our understanding of social and cultural distinction. This involves a synthesis of historical sources and ethnography, and provides an innovative approach to the study of religious identity and specialist practitioners.


Chapter One The Mosque and the Termite Mound
Islam and Caste
Islam in Senegal
'Popular' Islam
The Concept of Caste
Conceptions of Islam
Islam in Stratified Societies
Islamic 'Magic'
The Territory
The People
The Islamic Community
Caste, Knowledge and Power
The Mosque and the Termite Mound
An Ambivalent Adventure
Chapter Two Ranks and Categories: The Emergence of a Haalpulaar Social Division of Labour
Social Divisions among Haalpulaaren - Social Ranks
Social Divisions among Haalpulaaren - Social Categories
Social Categories of the Men-of-Skill (Nyeenybe)
Bondsmen and Women
Hierarchical Relations of Political Economy
The Case of Hamadi Ounare
The Case of Doumga Rindiao
Chapter Three Historical Origins and Social Pedigrees of Craftsmen and Musicians: Genealogies of Power and Knowledge of the Wild
Historical Origins and Sources
A History of Men-of-Skill Categories
Local Histories
The Social Division of Knowledge: Men-of-Skill and the Wild
Characterisations of Social Ranks
Gandal and the Social Division of Knowledge and Power
History and Hierarchy - A Reprise
The Fetishisation of Production
Chapter Four The White and the Black: Ideology and the Rise to Dominance of the Islamic Clerics
A Brief History of Islam in the Senegal River Valley
Formation of the Toorobe Cleric Social Category
The Construction of Toorobe Islamic Ideology
The Muslim Reformism of El Hajj Umar Taal
Umar Taal, the 'Mystical Warrior'
Concluding Remarks - Cleric Islam and the Other
Chapter Five Accommodationist Sufi Islam: Tensions and Ambiguities
The Ideological Configuration of Accommodationist Islam
Ritual Specialists and Rites of Passage
Ambivalence in Religious Thought
Islam and the Reinterpretation of Myth
Chapter Six The Witch-Hunter and the Marabout: Competing Domains of Knowledge and Power
The Black Arts and Fields of Knowledge
The Emergence of Gandal Maabube
The Witch-Hunter and the Marabout
The Witch-Hunter
The Art of Maraboutic Magic
The Education of a Marabout
Discusssion: A Social Division of Healing
Nyengo and Spiritual Tutelage
Chapter Seven The Power of the Word: The Oral and the Written
Proverbial Sayings and the Denial of Agency
The Vocabulary of Speech and Language
The Potency and Danger of Names
Praise-songs, Poetry and Prayer
The Patterns of Language
Magical Spells, Protective Verses and Incantations
Discussion of Spoken Magic
Writing and the Order of Things
The Prose of the World
Chapter Eight Islamic Reformers, Islamists and the Muslim Community
'Book Magic'
Developments in the Field of Education
Islamic Reform Movements
The Renegotiation of Islam and Social Exclusion
The Changing Nature of Caste and Islam
Singers, Popular Song and Islam
The Islamic Brotherhood of the Nyasiyya

About the Author

Roy Dilley is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews.

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