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Entrustment and its Changing Political Meanings in Fuladu, the Gambia (1880–1994)

  • Alice Bellagamba
Abstract

The practice of entrustment is a form of voluntary allegiance for the sake of protection, one which historically lies at the core of host–stranger relationships along the River Gambia. Deeply woven into the social fabric of local communities, it was appropriated by various historical subjects during the twentieth century in order to construct networks of political confidence and mutual assistance at a local and national level. This article traces this dynamic process of re-elaboration. In so doing, it takes into account the history of a Mandinka commercial settlement in eastern Gambia from the late nineteenth century to post-Independence times, and questions the shifts that occurred in the political significance of entrustment with changing social and economic scenarios. Contextualised in the longue durée, the practice of karafoo shows its relevance as a cultural resource encouraging the creation of networks of trust and interdependence in social settings historically characterised by seasonal and more stable forms of migration.

La pratique du «don de confiance’ est une forme d'allégeance volontaire dans un but de protection, qui repose historiquement au coeur des relations hôte–étranger le long du fleuve Gambie. Profondément ancrée dans le tissu social des communautés locales, elle s'est vue appropriée par divers sujets historiques au cours du vingtième siècle pour construire des réseaux de confiance politique et d'assistance mutuelle au niveau local et national. Cet article retrace ce processus dynamique de ré-élaboration. Ce faisant, il prend en considération l'histoire d'un peuplement commercial mandingue dans l'est de la Gambie de la fin du dix-neuvième siècle jusqu'à la période postind épendance, et s'interroge sur les changements survenus dans la signification politique du don de confiance à l'aide de scénarios sociaux et économiques changeants. Placée dans un contexte de longue durée, la pratique du karafoo montre son intérêt en tant que ressource culturelle favorisant la création de réseaux de confiance et d'interdépendance au sein d'environnements sociaux historiquement caractérisés par des formes de migration saisonnières et plus stables.

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