Crediting God: Sovereignty and Religion in the Age of Global Capitalism

By Miguel Vatter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Religion and the Public Sphere in Senegal:
The Evolution of a Project of Modernity

Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Those who led Senegal to independence and established the institutions of the new state, notably Léopold Sédar Senghor and Mamadou Dia, intended it to be based on the philosophical foundation of a socialism that would be both African and spiritualist. And they also meant it to be secular. African socialism, spirituality, secularism, those were the concepts that were to guide the state toward modernity and development. Socialism had transformed Russia into a world power; it was at work in China and elsewhere to bring progress to the lives of the “damned of the earth.” It was logical to think that in its African guise it would offer the promise of a new kind of development. But spirituality? Especially when combined with secularism, a term that is intimately linked to its particular French history in which it connotes anticlericalism, pronounced and haughty opposition to any manifestation of religion in the public sphere? That is why the very Catholic Senghor and Dia, the pious Muslim, both fundamentally convinced of the necessity of a secular state, believed just as firmly that religious fervor was a cultural energy essential for achieving modernization and development. And that is why they charged themselves and their fellow nation builders, the institutions, the party and especially political discourse with the mission of realizing the ideal of a nation

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