Winner of the 2009 Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology.
The Politics of Religious Change on the Upper Guinea Coast offers an in-depth analysis of an iconoclastic religious movement initiated by a Muslim preacher among coastal Baga farmers in the French colonial period.
With an ethnographic approach that listens as carefully to those who suffered iconoclastic violence as to those who wanted to 'get rid of custom', this work discusses the extent to which iconoclasm produces a rupture of religious knowledge and identity, and analyses its relevance in the making of modern nations and citizens.
The book will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those with an interest in the anthropology of religion, iconoclasm, the history and anthropology of West Africa, or the politics of heritage.
About the Author
Under the successive mid-twentieth century urgings of Muslim iconoclasm and state socialism, it seems as if some coastal Baga of Guinea became willing accomplices in the destruction of their own revered customs, chiefly authorities, and material culture. The great achievement of Ramon Sarró’s nuanced ethnography is to reveal the truth of this view of the past while simultaneously exploring its limitations, seen from contemporary Guinea in which Baga ethnicity and custom are re-emerging as contested territories. Beyond this specific instance, Sarró demonstrates why modernizing processes have been fractured, fractious and fracturing in the experience of African people.
Ramon Sarró’s book on religious and political changes among the Baga of Guinea is a richly documented contribution to the anthropology of modernity... [His] historical ethnography attests to an impressive historical scholarship written with strong empathy... This book is a standing contribution to the historical and cultural knowledge of the Upper Guinea Coast and will be fully acknowledged by coming generations of regional scholars.
This is a wonderfully subtle account of social change among the Baga-speaking people of coastal Guinea, centred on dance and iconoclasm as modes of religious and inter-generational contestation. Broad in scope, erudite, and yet elegant in presentation, Sarro’s book has wide significance for debates about conflict as performance, while being a pleasure to read.