Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 April 2015
This article analyzes the role of religious actors at different stages in the long and gradual processes of democratization in Senegal. It examines the transformations in their political influence from pillars of the stable (but non-democratic) post-independence state, to a more ambiguous posture in the decade of democratic opening. A discussion of the interactive relationship between religious change and the transition to democracy over the course of the 1990s leads us to an analysis of the role of religious actors in debating the substantive content of Senegalese democracy in the decade that followed. The article concludes that while procedurally religious actors are playing an important role in the development of the democratic system in Senegal, substantively they are doing so in part by calling into question some understandings of what democracy entails. The ultimate evaluation of their contribution to the consolidation of democracy hinges at least in part on our conceptualization of democracy itself.
I would like to thank Mirjam Künkler and Julia Leininger, the conveners of the research project on “Religious Actors in Democratization Processes: Evidence from the five Muslim Democracies,” for their comments, and patience. I also thank the anonymous reviewers of earlier drafts of this article. The article builds on very long and on-going conversations about the dynamics of religion and politics in Senegal with a large number of colleagues, some over many years. I would like to acknowledge, in particular, Cheikh Anta Babou, Mamadou Bodian, Soulaymane Bachir Diagne, Mamadou Diouf, Ousmane Kane, Abdoul Aziz Kébé, Penda Mbow, Bakary Sambe, and Elhadji Sarr.
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