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Politicians of the Sacred Grove: Citizenship and Ethnicity in Southern Senegal

Ferdinand de Jong
Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Vol. 72, No. 2 (2002), pp. 203-220
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3556988
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Politicians of the Sacred Grove: Citizenship and Ethnicity in Southern Senegal
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Abstract

This article examines the traditional initiation of the former Senegalese Minister of Agriculture. At the age of fifty-five the Catholic Minister was initiated into the secrets of the sacred grove and thus acquired the status of adult man. The article demonstrates that Jola ethnic discourse, in which male initiation has become an important symbol, forced the Minister to enter the grove. His initiation turned him into a full member of the Jola ethnic group and qualified him as a trustworhty man capable of representing the people. In the campaign of the Socialist Party internal elections the Minister's initiation nevertheless became a major issue. The electorate did not show unswerving loyalty to 'their' Minister and nominated a non-initiate. The electorate suddenly changed their standards of apt political representation. The article contributes to the contemporary debate on citizenship and primary patriotism by showing that the Senegalese easily shift their position from subject to citizen, and thus empower themselves vis-à-vis elusive politicians. It also shows that politicians penetrate Jola practices of secrecy and thereby further the Jola's integration into the national public sphere./ Cet article examine l'initiation traditionnelle de l'ancien Ministre sénégalais de l'Agriculture. A l'âge de cinquante cinq ans, ce Ministre catholique fut initié aux secrets du bosquet sacré et acquit à cette occasion le statut d'homme adulte. L'article démontre que le discours ethnique jola, dans lequel l'initiation des hommes est devenue un symbole important, a forcé le Ministre à intégrer le bosquet. Cette initiation a fait de lui un membre à part entière du groupe ethnique jola et lui confère le statut d'homme digne de confiance capable de représenter la population. Lors de la campagne menée à l'occasion des élections internes du Parti Socialiste, l'initiation du Ministre a néanmoins été l'objet de débats. L'électorat, loin de manifester une loyauté absolue envers "leur" Ministre, a nommé un non-initié. L'électorat a subitement changé ses critères d'aptitude à la représentation politique. L'article contribue au débat contemporain sur la citoyenneté et le patriotisme primaire en montrant que les Sénégalais passent facilement de la position de sujet à celle de citoyen, et disposent ainsi d'un pouvoir face aux politiciens insaisissables. Il montre é galement que les politiciens s'intègrent dans la pratique du secret jola et favorisent ainsi l'intégration des Jola dans le domaine public national.

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