Accepted Paper:

Divination and Islam: existential perspectives in the study of ritual and religious praxis in Senegal and Gambia  

Author:

Knut Graw (Catholic University of Leuven)

Paper short abstract:

Rather than being practised at the margins of an assumed Islamic orthodoxy, Senegambian divination is embedded in and integrating other forms of Islamic ritual such as sadaqa and duwa’. In this regard, the paper will argue, Senegambian divination seems to resist categorisations of Islamic religious and ritual practices as pertaining to the realms of either ‘popular’ or ‘official’ varieties of Islam.

Paper long abstract:

Divination is one of the most wide-spread and resiliant institutions of ritual life in West African countries such as Senegal and Gambia. Rather than being practised at the margins of an assumed Islamic orthodoxy, Senegambian divination is embedded in and integrating other forms of Islamic ritual such as sadaqa and duwa'. In this regard, Senegambian divination seems to resist categorisations of Islamic religious and ritual practices as pertaining to the realms of either 'popular' or 'official' varieties of Islam. Drawing on extented ethnographic observation, case studies and the anthropological and phenomenological analysis of divination and related practices in Senegal and the Gambia, the paper sets out to develop an understanding of Senegambian divination in relation to the larger complex of Islamic praxis of which it appears to form an important part. Focusing on the existential rather than the theological or symbolic dimensions of these practices, the paper argues that, in the West African context, one of the most important dimensions of the cultural and social significance of divination and Islamic praxis lies in their contribution to the construction of a cultural space of hope and prospect for the individual as well as, possibly, society as a whole.

Panel W008
What makes popular piety popular?