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

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
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  • 1 Department of Anthropology; Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA 98447 USA

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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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  • 14

    . 2000.050-1A-334. Notations in this format refer to the location of the song in my field notes.

  • 15

    . 2000.160-1B-132.

  • 17

    . 2000.050-1A-321.

  • 18

    . 2000.160-4A-087.

  • 19

    . 2000.050-1A-076.

  • 24.

    Mark (2002) and Brooks (2003) have documented the presence of Roman Catholic Portuguese along this coast going back to the sixteenth century. However, years frequently passed between visits from priests based at Gorée and the Cabo Verde Islands and there was no systematic effort to convert the local population, though some practices such as wearing saints medals certainly diffused into local populations.

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