The Sound of Laïcité: Poetry, Print, and Noise Regulation in Twentieth-Century Senegal

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Abstract

Sound control policies already had a long history in the French-controlled settlements of the Senegalese coast by the time the prefect of Dakar issued a decree in 1953 prohibiting the use of loudspeakers on public roads and in the open-air courtyards of private residences. Such policies aimed at silencing the nighttime recitation of poems known in the Wolof language of Senegambia as xasida (and referred to by French administrators as chants religieux). Derived from the Arabic term for “ode” (qaṣīda), such poems formed a key component of the liturgy of Senegal's expanding Sufi orders. In this same period, the first Senegalese-owned printing presses began disseminating xasida in printed form more widely than ever, and at times against the wishes of the leadership of the Muridiyya, one of Senegal's leading sufi orders. By highlighting the intertwined nature of print, public recitation, and sound control in midcentury Senegal, this article seeks to illuminate the institutional and political contexts that shaped the production and reception of specific genres of Islamic scholarship in the late colonial period.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Volume41
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • secularism
  • laïcité
  • Sufism
  • Senegal
  • Muridiyya
  • France
  • poetry

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