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Christianity, Islam, and ‘The Religion of Pouring’: Non-linear Conversion in a Gambia/Casamance Borderland1

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
Author:
Steven K. Thomson Department of Anthropology; Pacific Lutheran University Tacoma, WA 98447 USA thomson@plu.edu

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Abstract

The twentieth-century religious history of the Kalorn (Karon Jolas) in the Alahein River Valley of the Gambia/Casamance border cannot be reduced to a single narrative. Today extended families include Muslims, Christians, and practitioners of the traditional Awasena ‘religion of pouring’. A body of funeral songs highlights the views of those who resisted pressure toward conversion to Islam through the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. The introduction of a Roman Catholic mission in the early 1960s created new social and economic possibilities that consolidated an identity that stood as an alternative to the Muslim-Mandinka model. This analysis emphasizes the equal importance of both macropolitical and economic factors and the more proximal effects of reference groups in understanding religious conversion. Finally, this discussion of the origins of religious pluralism within a community grants insight into how conflicts along religious lines have been defused.

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