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Mamadou Diouf delivers the James S. Coleman Memorial Lecture: Islam and the Making of the Public Space

Mamadou Diouf is Leitner Family Professor of African Studies. He leads Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs.

“Can Islamic Civilization mesh with the Western World?” This presentation will provide a historical perspective on how this controversial question was answered during the French colonial period in Saint-Louis du Sénégal.

Muslim law was given an official status in the governance system of the city. It was forced on the colonial administration that opposed it from the late 18th century to 1856 but came to existence (with the creation of public institutions) without having ever been packaged as “Shariah”. Islam, Wolof, Arabic and Hassanya languages have shaped the community - the Muslim traders of the city - that promoted actively the coloring of the colonial institutions by a local culture which foundations, language, rituals and esthetics, were Wolof. They constituted a moral community with a civic culture that drew not only on Islamic religious resources but also on the political, economic and social rights conferred on them by their French citizen status. By constantly making claims based on their citizenship rights, they initiated a twofold process: inserting themselves in the colonial narrative and fabricating a world of their own through a daily engagement with colonial policy and knowledge systems as well as with their Senegambian neighbors moral and social values.

Mamadou Diouf is Leitner Family Professor of African Studies. He leads Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Paris-Sorbonne (France). His research interests include urban, political, social and intellectual history in colonial and postcolonial Africa. His most recent book is Histoire du Sénégal: Le modèle islamo-wolof et ses périphéries (2001).  Diouf is the author, editor and co-author of several other works including Les figures du politique en Afrique: des pouvoirs hérités aux pouvoirs élus and Les jeunes: hantise de l'espace public dans les sociétés du Sud.

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