The Conservative Aspects of a Centripetal Diaspora: The Case of the Cape Verdean Tabancas

By Filho, Wilson Trajano | Africa, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

The Conservative Aspects of a Centripetal Diaspora: The Case of the Cape Verdean Tabancas


Filho, Wilson Trajano, Africa


ABSTRACT

This article deals with the continuous flow of resources, values and goods that takes place within a Cape Verdean institution called tabanca. It examines the effects of some practices of the so-called Cape Verdean diaspora on local forms of sociality in Santiago's tabancas, in order to show that these flows have a remarkable conservative tendency and contribute to the reproduction of traditional forms of social organization. The Cape Verde I present in this article is at variance with the standard image of the country in current anthropological literature, which approaches social life in the archipelago using analytical tools developed in interdisciplinary fields such as globalization theory and postcolonial, transnational or diasporic studies. Through the ethnographic analysis of the flows within the tabanca, I put the Cape Verde case in the general context of West African political culture to argue that some of its attributes, which appear in literature on transnationalism, diaspora and globalization as the outcome of contemporary transformation, can best be explained in terms of a conservative structural continuity with the political culture that evolved in the northern part of West Africa, known as Senegambia.

RESUME

Cet article traite du flux continu de ressources, de valeurs et de biens au sein d'une institution cap-verdienne du nom de tabanca. Il examine les effets de certaines pratiques de la dite diaspora cap-verdienne sur des formes locales de socialite dans les tabancas de Santiago, afin de montrer que ces flux ont une remarquable tendance conservatrice et contribuent a la reproduction de formes traditionnelles d'organisation sociale. Le Cap-Vert decrit dans tet article se demarque de l'image classique du pays qu'en donne la litterature anthropologique courante, qui aborde la vie sociale dans l'archipel par le biais d'outils analytiques mis au point dans des champs interdisciplinaires tels que la theorie de la globalisation et les etudes postcoloniales, transnationales ou diasporiques. A travers l'analyse ethnographique des flux dans la tabanca, l'article place le cas du Cap-Vert dans le contexte general de la culture politique d'Afrique de l'Ouest pour affirmer que le meilleur moyen d'expliquer certains de ces attributs, qui apparaissent dans la litterature sur le transnationalisme, la diaspora et la globalisation comine la resultante de la transformation contemporaine, est en termes d'une continuite structurelle conservatrice avec la culture politique qui s'est developpee dans la partie septentrionale de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, connue sous le nom de Senegambie.

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This article is about a Cape Verdean institution named tabanca--a form of religious mutual aid association. It analyses the continuous flow of resources, values and goods that takes place within this institution in a society deeply marked by migration. More specifically, it examines the effects of some practices of the so-called Cape Verdean diaspora on local forms of sociality, in order to show that, rather than catalysing or inducing local transformations, these flows have a remarkable conservative tendency and contribute to the reproduction of traditional forms of social organization.

Cape Verde is composed of nine inhabited islands which are physically very different from one another. Some islands are flat and sandy, such as Maio, Boa Vista and Sal; some have rainfall patterns and soils that enable rudimentary agricultural practice, such as Santiago, Santo Antao and Sao Nicolau; others are rocky and arid with lunar landscapes, severely restricting possibilities for human settlement. This is the case in Sao Vicente and some parts of Fogo. The society that emerged in the Cape Verde Islands is the result of the historical encounter between Portuguese and Africans in which the parties involved had to reach a compromise continually negotiated to accommodate social, cultural and linguistic differences in a context in which neither party had the necessary means to impose its own way of life on the other. …

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