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Cyclical history in the Gambia/Casamance borderlands: Refuge, settlement and Islam from c.1880 to the present

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    Rights statement: © Nugent, P. (2007). Cyclical history in the Gambia/Casamance borderlands: refuge, settlement and Islam from c.1880 to the present. Journal of African History, 48(2), 221-243doi: 10.1017/S0021853707002769

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-243
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of African History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2007


This article begins with a quotation from a local informant highlighting a perception in the Gambia/Casamance borderlands that there is a pattern linking the violence of the later nineteenth century with more recent troubles. It argues that there is some merit in this thesis, which is encapsulated in a concatenation of events: systematic raiding by Fodé Sylla led to the creation of a relatively depopulated colonial border zone which was later filled by Jola immigrants from Buluf to the southeast. In the perception of some, it is these immigrants who attracted the MFDC rebels. Mandinkas and Jolas of Fogny Jabankunda and Narang, and Karoninkas from the islands of Karone have therefore been largely unreceptive to appeals to Casamance nationalism. The article also argues that there are more twisted historical connections. Whereas in the later nineteenth century, the Jolas associated Islam with violent enslavement, they later converted en masse. Their attitude towards Fodé Sylla remained negative, whilst the Mauritanian marabout, Cheikh Mahfoudz, was credited with the introduction of a pacific form of Islam that valorized hard work and legitimated physical migration. This legacy has posed a further barrier to militant nationalism. Islam and violence remain linked, but the signs have been reversed.

    Research areas

  • Gambia, Senegal, Islam

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