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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Islam and West African Anthropology
Author:Saul, MahirISNI
Periodical:Africa Today
Geographic term:West Africa
Anthropology and Archaeology
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/africa_today/v053/53.1saul.html
Abstract:The anthropology of West Africa carries the burden of a chasm between what is considered traditional or authentically African and what is Islamic. This reveals itself in ignoring Islam, misrecognizing the cultural legacy of Islam in today's lives beyond self-professed Muslims, and exaggerating the contrast between the 'pre' and the 'post' in recent cases of conversion. A more balanced, historically informed understanding of contemporary West Africa requires greater awareness of the central role of the region's historical ties with the Mediterranean world and the canvas of meaning deposited by Islam. Sections in this article on mobility and literacy provide a rapid survey of these themes, which are emblematic of what social anthropologists ought to bring to the forefront of their vision of West Africa. A third section is a detour on politics, which explores the framework for the impact of Islam. A final section, on mimesis, discusses some cultural processes still at work. The author argues that we need to reimagine West Africa, both to reach a new cosmopolitanism to transcend the we-they contrast, and to allow anthropology to make more significant contributions to the study of contemporary Africa. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract]