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Islam and Social Change in French West Africa: History of an Emancipatory Community (African Studies) Paperback – October 14, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0521156295 ISBN-10: 0521156297 Edition: Reprint

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Editorial Reviews


"Hanretta's book examines a dissident West African Sufi order transplanted from the southern sahel to Côte d'Ivoire during French colonial rule. Drawing on written and oral materials, Hanretta offers probing analyses of Muslim authority, memory and human agency. The result is a sophisticated history of the transformations associated with colonial rule, slave emancipations and Sufi piety during the first half of the twentieth century." - John Henry Hanson, Indiana University

"Islam and Social Change is a significant contribution to African history. It manages to integrate, in a coherent argument, the history of Islamic religious practice and of social marginality. Hanretta reflects with great intelligence on the process of writing about contested colonial history. He tells us that his sources bear the indelible marks of colonial power relations but can, despite this, serve as the basis of an important narrative." - Steven Feierman, University of Pennsylvania

"With this book, Sean Hanretta takes his place as one of the leading authorities on religious and social change in Africa. He has 'pluralized' the paths and patterns of islamization in this story of a Muslim community in Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire in the 20th century. The Yacoubistes, spiritual descendants of the Hamallistes, who were in turn a variant of the Tijaniyya Sufi order, suffered at the hands of French colonial and local elite authorities in Mauritania in 1929-30, and then transformed the history of that suffering into an entrepreneurial success in Cote d'Ivoire. Hanretta makes several passes at their narrative, and reinventions of that narrative, and the ways in which different parts of the overall community have interpreted the story. He brings special insight to the interpretations and meaning for women, who have been woefully neglected in the literature on Islam in francophone West Africa." - David Robinson, Michigan State University

"In this remarkable examination of the trajectory of one West African Sufi community, Hanretta masterfully pulls together the diverse strands of religious, economic, political and social change in Sahelian Africa into a finely textured account of the region in the twentieth century. Critically engaging with oral accounts, archival sources, and an extraordinarily wide range of literature, this work provides a window on a history of striking relevance to our understanding of Islam and social order in the contemporary Sahel, while simultaneously challenging scholarly conventions of how we come to understand complex social change." - Leonardo A. Villalón, University of Florida

"This is more than a study of a sufi community in 20th century West Africa; it's a study of the intellectual life of patronage and power in a colonial society. With a critical reading of oral and archival materials, Hanretta shows how patronage and power articulate a moral universe of doctrine and practice." - Luise White, University of Florida

". . . Hanretta's work pushes the field in new directions. . . . Within the historiography of Islam in West Africa, the book breaks new ground alongside other recent works that seek to employ local or micro-histories to critique and analyze standard conceptions and to present emerging theories on the larger topic of the development of Islam in Africa." - John Glover, American Historical Review

Islam and Social Change in French West Africa is a significant, well-written, and thoughtfully argued book. Hanretta makes major substantive contributions to the historiography of Islam in Africa by illuminating the history of an under-examined movement and by placing women and low status individuals at the center of the analysis. Moreover, he makes useful interventions into African colonial historiography--and colonial historiography more broadly--by showing how meaningful narratives in the history of the colonized might be discerned in the archive of the colonizer." - Rudolph Ware, University of Michigan, International Journal of African Historical Studies

Book Description

Exploring the history of a group of Muslim Sufi mystics and their religious community in colonial French West Africa, this study shows the relationship between religious, social, and economic change in the region. It highlights the role that the people played in shaping social and cultural change and illuminates the specific religious ideas and political contexts that gave their efforts meaning. This book argues that such movements were driven by local forces and constituted only the most recent round in a set of centuries-old debates about the best way for pious people to confront social injustice.

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