Sharedness as Belonging

Hospitality, Inclusion, and Equality among the Layene of Senegal

in Religion and Society
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  • 1 Center for Asian and African Studies, El Colegio de México eriley@colmex.mx

Abstract

This article draws on in-depth ethnographic research with the Layene (People of God), a little-studied Sufi Muslim community based in Dakar, the present-day Senegalese capital. My analysis of everyday and ritual performances serves as a way to understand what it means to be Layene, a community guided by particular (re)interpretations of equality, community ethics, and religious practice and discourse. I focus primarily on how the Layene reinterpret the Wolof concept of teraanga (hospitality/prestation) as constituting a kind of ‘radical sharedness’, which is viewed as the ethical foundation of the Layene faith. My study uses ethnographic research with Layene community members, discourse analysis of written and spoken Layene sermons and sikr (invocations of God), and content from Layene community websites to examine how specific ritual performances bring about religious communion as well as social change.

“Jambaaru diine daanu na, Teraanga diine dem na ni [A servant of God has fallen, and his sacred hospitality has gone with him],” sang Mbaye Seck Laye. The room of friends went silent as they soaked in his words with only the crackling sound of the mint tea brewing slowly. After a moment, they all broke out in song with him, passing along small amounts of cash as an expression of approval and emotional connection. The same bills changed hands several times, and it reminded me of how griots (praise-singers) are acknowledged for their songs of praise to individuals during family ceremonies. Knowing Mbaye Seck well, I teasingly asked, “Oh, so you are a griot of God?” He laughed and beamed with pride, saying, “Voilà, that's it! But a waykat [religious singer] is different,” he added, “because they only work for God, not for the recognition and wealth of this world.” I pressed further, “But I thought griots practice teraanga as they also transmit praises and gifts.” “Loolu, du teraanga, arnaque la [That is not teraanga, it's stealing],” he quipped with a smirk. “Lii teraanga la [This is teraanga],” he said, motioning to the collective presence in the room and passing me a glass of tea in a sign of hospitality.

Seck was adamant about the difference between a waykat and a griot, who praises attending guests for money in the context of family ceremonies. He criticized the role that griots have come to play in Senegalese society, having only their own interests in mind and following around those who have money. By using the French word arnaque (thievery or stealing), he remarked that referring to griot's work as teraanga seems to insult a purer meaning of the word, which the Layene sought to redefine. A géwël, or griot in Wolof,1 “has the responsibility for the cultural, historical, and spiritual traditions of a people” (Bellinger 2013: 62), and can take many forms, such as genealogists/historians of Wolof families (Irvine 1973), musicians and entertainers, and praise-singers (Hale 1998). Despite the diverse roles of géwël, in everyday discourse they are often described as encouraging untenable exchanges during family ceremonies, which follow the relational realities of castes based on the inequalities of social status (Sarr 1998). Therefore, Mbaye Seck's differentiation between waykats and géwëls is about a redefinition of teraanga as an equally shared Layene identity.

Mbaye Seck Laye is a waykat chosen as an apprentice by Cherif Ousseynou Laye, a childhood friend and son of the first khalif of the Layene community. Cherif is the servant of God about whom they sang. He died very young and was known for his generosity and dedication to the youth movement among the community. It was often during these tea gatherings following Friday prayer that Cherif or other Layene congregants came up in conversation, which then solicited the singing of songs that Mbaye Seck and other waykat had written. Waykat men also record songs to distribute at events or to sell at minimum cost at local media shops. These discs, and increasingly digital videos and audios, can be heard in homes throughout Layene households and are increasingly popular and accessible ‘pathways to God’ (Schulz 2011). Layene of the diaspora can listen to sikr (invocations of God) on the radio station Diamalaye FM using an app, allowing them to feel connected.

Sikr is an essential part of the teachings of Limamou Laye, the founder of the Layene Sufi order (see below), and is practiced widely throughout the community (Basse 2003). This aspect compels members to focus on the purely religious aspects of ceremonies: prayer, ordination, and invoking the name of God. “Sikr is all we know from the time we are children,” Seck said. Sikr were instrumental during large Layene public events and intimate dahira meetings (religious associations), but not used during ceremonies for entertainment. Contemporary Layene members say their community does not condone large displays of gift giving during weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and in the absence of griots, waykat lead religious chants praising God and the founder. Their attachment to sikr is also as much practical as it is pedagogical. During ceremonies, sikr is important for the repetitive tudde Yalla (naming of God) to ensure the ascension of the deceased's soul to heaven, as well as for the practical avoidance of gossip.

Teraanga—hospitality/prestation (Seck 2015)—is most widely regarded as the symbol of an urban national Wolof identity in Senegal. Senegal is home to numerous ethnic and linguistic communities; however, in urban centers, such as the former colonial capital Saint-Louis and the current capital Dakar, the preeminence of the Wolof language and identity have defined the changing urban environment (McLaughlin 2001). In broader Wolof understanding, the definition and practice of teraanga have often been controversial as the concept has nationally come to mean a type of competitive gift giving during family ceremonies that reinforces differences of class and caste. As Mbaye Seck mentioned, this interpretation of teraanga as ‘thievery’ is an attempt to establish individual wealth and prestige. As I argue in this article, Layene adherents reinterpret teraanga as a civic duty of individuals to their religious community, expressed through the giving and receiving of hospitality and generosity, and the recognition of a shared identity through performances of social leveling. Done in the name of a collective Layene identity, this is similar to Yolanda Covington-Ward's (2016: 5) definition of performance among Muslims in the Congo as a “restored behavior enacted with a heightened awareness, consciousness, and/or intention, with the capacity to transform social realities.” Reinterpreted as a radical form of ‘sharedness’, teraanga opens new shared spaces (a restorative behavior) where inequalities and difference are diminished rather than accentuated. In other words, reframing teraanga as a religious practice and a duty to others allows for a dialectic between acts of social leveling and repetitive discourse in the construction of a community based on social equality.

Drawing on my ethnographic research with Layene community members, discourse analysis of written and spoken Layene sermons and sikr, as well as online content from Layene community websites, I argue that these performances aim to bring about religious communion as well as social change. The performances analyzed in this article redefine teraanga as social equality and inclusion in the context of Islamic Sufism and a Wolof society that has been defined by hierarchy. For example, I demonstrate how Layene adherents use naming and dress practices in the semiotic construction of sharedness and equality, and thus in the construction of teraanga as religious faith. By no means do I wish to suggest that ideas or practices such as equality, charity, or tolerance are not elemental to most religions. Rather, I propose that ‘radical sharedness’ is the ultimate expression of Layene faith and identity. I will therefore focus on modes of dress, naming practices, and dhikr sessions as semiotic and discursive means through which radical sharedness is performed and established as the core of this community.

The Layene Community

The Layene (People of God) is a community of Sufi Muslims living along the Dakar coastline of modern Senegal. On 24 May 1884, Seydina Limamou Laye (Our Master Muhammed Imam of God) formerly known as Libasse Thiaw, a simple Lebu fisherman,2 called upon his community to follow him. He stood at the precipice of the West African coast (see fig. 1) and announced: “Aajiibo daa-i Yaa Lahi [Respond to God's call]! The Prophet Muhammed was asleep. Now he has awoken and God has put his soul in my body. I am the Prophet of God, the Mahdi” (Basse 2003). As the Mahdi, or the reincarnation of the Prophet Muhammed (Sylla and Gaye 1985), called by some the prophète noir (Black Prophet), he was sent by God to continue His mission (Laborde 1995). Limamou Laye called on all people and spirits (jiin) alike to respond to God's will (Bâ 2014). The Appel (call to followers), as it is known to the Layene, marked the reappearance of the Prophet Muhammad in the body of the Mahdi, an embodiment (Halverson 2020) of a Black African within the small coastal village of Yoff. A northern fishing village of Dakar, Yoff was a small cluster of homes belonging to the Lebu people, who believed strongly in spirits and initially met the Mahdi's pronouncement with suspicion (Mori 2003). The Lebu were considered to have preserved a pre-Islamic worldview (Robinson 1997), and Limamou Laye intended to show them the path to Islam.

Figure 1:
Figure 1:

Mbaye Seck Laye walking toward Diamalaye, Yoff-Layene. Photograph © Emily Jenan Riley

Citation: Religion and Society 12, 1; 10.3167/arrs.2021.120115

The appearance of Seydina Limamou Laye in 1884 came at a time when the colonial regime threatened the social identities of the Lebu people (Thomas 2012). Whether the founding of the Layene community was to specifically address the changes that came about with the colonial encounter is not clear. Limamou Laye's sermons and subsequent sikr (religious singing or chanting, invocations of God) indicate a more internal struggle with certain Lebu practices and philosophies that went against the principles of Islam as well as universally recognized notions of equality and well-being. The Lebu were known for their belief in spirits (jinn) and practices of spirit possession and dispossession. Along with these, other customs that Limamou Laye preached against included social hierarchies based on caste and wealth, ethnic inequalities displayed through family names (which can determine marital prospects), and non-religious celebrations of life-cycle events. These non-religious elements of family ceremonies included the gééw, or competitive gift-giving circle where mainstream interpretations of teraanga originate. Seydina Limamou Laye discouraged these customs on the basis that only the acceptance of God as the Almighty would solve personal and communal issues. All other beliefs in spirits, hierarchies, and the exchange of material wealth would mean destruction.

According to Mbaye Seck Laye, now an important Layene waykat, “If you look, Seydina Limamou Laye, when he came, and his ‘call’ gained strength [among the community], the first thing he did was to fight wastefulness.” Referring to the main principles of the Layene, Seck added, “The basic foundation of the Layene community is how to manage our relationships, how to avoid wastefulness.” This ‘wastefulness’ references the material and excessive tendencies of family ceremonies practiced throughout Senegalese society. One of Limamou Laye's sermons speaks to this: “Be constantly creating good relationships between you and others and rid yourself of anything that can engender hostility in the hearts of some toward others … ban division and wastefulness. Do not go looking to make people give you their goods, whether small or large” (Gaye, n.d.). Layene particularism thus seeks to solve problems of inequality and hierarchy through new ways of thinking about exchange and social and material obligations that do not create division. Another sermon communicates this well: “I recommend to you to be indulgent in regard to followers who are lacking and to extend this indulgence to all Muslims … you should also avoid showing yourself as superior to those who are not Moukhadam [a student of a Sufi order who becomes an apprentice to the imam]. Know that you are just as equal as they are” (ibid.). Here, Limamou Laye identifies indulgence as a means of solidarity rather than personal wealth—promoting sharing even with non-Layene members—and insists upon equality in both wealth and religious status.

In what follows, I will discuss three practices that are central in this construction of radical sharedness to demonstrate the semiotic and discursive work required to establish teraanga as the heart of this community. These include hospitality as religious communion and historical pedagogy, naming practices and greeting styles as social leveling, and dress choices to purify social inequalities. I do so by concentrating on the group of young Layene women who were tutored first by Cherif Ousseynou Laye and his youth group and then by Mbaye Seck Laye, who took over following Cherif's passing. The women are active members of the Layene community through their leadership among the neighborhood dahira and their role in providing hospitality during the annual Appel, or commemoration of the birth of the Layene. They exemplify the work that goes into creating and maintaining the key principles of the Layene community.

Hospitality in Camberene, Dakar

“Laye Laye,” Aicha said as we passed strangers on the narrow sandy path in the Castors neighborhood. “Laye Makhtar,” they responded in kind. When we shuffled by a middle-aged woman and her child struggling to keep up in the thick sand, I figured I would give the greeting a try. “Laye Laye,” I said, to which they responded with a surprised giggle, “Laye Makhtar.” Aicha and I continued until we came upon a house where singing emanated from the open courtyard. We encountered women, men, and children dressed in white, sitting on mats and swaying to the rhythm carried by nothing more than their voices. It was peaceful and intense all at the same time. Imagine being swept up by your favorite song with the bass so loud that you can feel it in your heart. If you take your mind off of the meditation of the beat, it sounds like chaos. But inside the rhythm is a deep calm.

Looking around, I saw pure, almost exultant joy on everyone's faces as they waved their arms and snapped their fingers while repeating the sung mantra. Teenagers vigorously patterned their movements, and elders swayed slowly. Children barely able to walk imitated the movements with no particular care for rhythm. Sitting in a packed line, the younger generation of men waved their arms in unison, skillfully avoiding collisions with their neighbors. Women did the same but more sedately, with poise. Gesturing as if they were pulling a rope down from the sky into their body and releasing it mimicked the act of bringing in positive energy from a higher being and casting out negative energy from the body. And just as the group's sound swelled, one of the voices of the religious singers boomed from a microphone, and the group went silent. His words, like a griot, recounted the history of the Layene.3 To express their impact, worshippers responded, “Machallah” (grace to God) or “La ilaha ilala” (There is no one but God). After a while, a young man took another microphone and began the repetitive singing once again as his female counterpart echoed him in a kind of call and response:

Baye Laye, yaay boroom jamano, Baye Laye sanga feen na, laye la la laye tedd nga yoneent bee/yaw boroom jamano jaal nanu/Mame Baye Laye waa diwaan bi yaw lanu woolo.

Father Laye, you are the leader of this time, pray for us, Father Laye our serigne [spiritual guide], you have welcomed the prophet/You are the leader of this time, pray for us/Father Laye you represent the people and we trust you.

The above sikr is a call and response between a waykat and his chorus of followers, ending with a unified repetition. Songs range from simplistic lyrics for easy and short rhythms to more complex stories. They contain messages about members’ moral obligations to one another and other subjects, ranging from the avoidance of illegal use of funds, the proper forms of prayer, and the importance of teraanga. Inspiration for sikr content often comes directly from Limamou Laye's sermons, such as this one: “If you wish good greetings, accomplish good works, multiply your evocations of God's names, at every moment, let go of what has already passed, and purify your riches by giving charity, by giving gifts and aid to your parents” (Gaye, n.d.). The constant listening and singing of sikr ensures mass access for members of the community to learn about Layene and Qur'anic teachings. Women are also encouraged to sing, not just among themselves, but out loud at religious ceremonies, something shunned by other Sufi tarixas (brotherhoods) of Senegal, adding to the particularism of the Layene (Laborde 1995).

The Castors Dahira

The Layene community I worked with is concentrated mostly in Camberene—named after the holy city of Medina (Ross 2013: 78)—and in Yoff-Layene, the two fishing communities along the Cap-Vert coast where the majority Lebu, the indigenous inhabitants of the area, live and where the main mosques are located. Some of the neighborhoods in Camberene look as if time has passed them by. Old buildings are connected by a maze of thick sand passages, where, if blowing in the right direction, the sea breeze brings much-needed relief from heat to houses at higher levels and a great deal of dust on the ground. Throughout the Castors neighborhood, sikr can be heard on Friday nights, as well as from kitchens where women are preparing meals, or from places where men sing as they work. Foot traffic is steady, and encounters like those I experienced with Aicha are the norm. Greeting one another with “Laye,” the chosen last name of the Layene founder, is typical. Laye, meaning Child of God, became not only the adopted salutation, but also the name that members call themselves and others. This symbolic practice creates a spatial marker for those areas of the city and homes where Layene might live.

As part of my research and acquaintance with Aicha and her family, I joined their dahira, or religious association, which met every Friday night at different members’ houses. I also spent a fair amount of time with them at their home as it was just a few blocks from my apartment in the Dakar neighborhood of Ouagou Niayes. Aicha's family was among a small cluster of Layene families living outside of Camberene and Yoff-Layene. Aicha's best friend, Diarra, was from a Mouride family, another of the Sufi orders of Senegal. It is common for followers of all orders to be friends, neighbors, and family members—a characteristic of the tolerance that Senegal is known for. However, it was easy to identify Aicha's home as there was a large mural of Seydina Issa Rahou Laye—the son of Seydina Limamou Laye and the first khalif of the Layene, said to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ (Glover 2013)—painted on the front door. The Layene families in the area carved out their own public and private ways of demonstrating their identity as Layene. Public Friday night dahira sessions could be heard from blocks away. Singing sikr at home was a way that Aicha's sister Penda always kept her mind on the teachings of Baye Laye (short for Seydina Limamou Laye). Besides their neighborhood dahira meetings, Aicha's family, along with other dahira members, would make trips to visit their spiritual guides (serigne) and to take part in Layene community religious gatherings, such as korité to celebrate the end of Ramadan. These were impressive to witness—a sea of white-clothed individuals congregating on the edge of the ocean where the main mosque, Diamalaye, is located and where Seydina Limamou Laye made his first call to followers.

Narratives of Teraanga as Religious Practice

One of the members of the Castors neighborhood dahira whom I came to know was Mami Laye, the president of the young women's section, aptly named Teral Gan (Honor the Guest). Most dahiras are broken up into gender and age groups, each with particular duties for the general functioning of the dahira, but also for their roles during the annual Appel commemoration. The Teral Gan group, which she organized with Aicha and her friends, was in charge of hospitality during the event. Mami Laye shared with me the story of Seydina Limamou Laye's mother, Soxna Coumba Ndoye,4 and her practices of teraanga as the symbolic principle of the Layene community. Coumba Ndoye is revered by all Layene, especially women, as a virtuous and generous woman due to her welcoming nature, even to strangers. Mami emphasized that Madame Ndoye never wanted an empty household at lunchtime, something most Layene homes have in common, and always tried to solicit guests to share the meal. Coumba's household always had an abundance of food, and anyone was welcome to stop by for a meal. Her love for sharing was so essential that if guests were sparse, she would ask Seydina to seek out strangers from beyond the village on his way to his fields. Seydina would give these strangers his prayer beads to take back and present to his mother as proof of being sent by him. Coumba welcomed them as she would other family members or neighbors. This story is perpetuated during religious ceremonies by religious leaders wishing for members to be graced with teraanga.

According to Mami, it is Madame Ndoye who championed the tradition of teraanga, giving the Layene a reputation as being particularly hospitable. In fact, she was nicknamed Coumba Jagata after the Wolof word jagat, meaning to carry, symbolizing all the bowls of food and water she carried for her various guests. These stories place teraanga as a central guiding principle of the Layene, demonstrating the obligation to others as a social and religious imperative. Mami Laye and others who are part of Teral Gan see her story as a reference to emulate. Not only is the perpetuation of Coumba's stories of hosting and sharing food an important part of Layene rhetoric, but it serves as a practical guide for how Layene taalibé (adherents) can exercise their worship of God and Seydina Limamou Laye.

Name Erasure and Renaming: Sharedness as Radical Inclusion and Equality

Another way that teraanga is reframed as sharedness among the Layene is the eradication of inequalities. Part of the reason why Seydina Limamou Laye was said to establish the Layene community was to address inequalities among the Lebu. These specifications are encoded into family names that continue to mark individuals by their place in the social hierarchy. The Layene profess that status not only creates divisions among people; it also distracts them from their devotion to God and the Prophet, the real judges of who will reap the benefits of the afterlife. To accomplish God's benediction and erase these hierarchies, Baye Laye suggested several ways to combat inequality, one of which was the adoption of a common name—lahi, or laye, derivatives of Allah or God.

Senegalese society is held together by names. Names identify what kind of family an individual comes from, their cultural practices, and one's social possibilities, which are historically determined at birth through the aforementioned caste system (Diop 1981). In his article on ‘name-avoidance’ among Cameroonians, Anchimbe (2011) asserts that the ways people address one another at first meeting has to do with the ‘representational’ and ‘social’ functions of language and how they correlate with the negotiations of power, friendliness, and social balance between interactants. Given that social relationships in Senegal emanate from direct lines of descent (filiation), which is recognized by family names, the role of individuals in the group and their moral characteristics are arguably predetermined by their family's origins (Dieng 2008).

The Layene profess to completely rid themselves of what they believe to be the divisive and unequal realities embedded in naming. Instead of total erasure, however, the Layene practice of renaming entails the double function of exclusion and inclusion. By excluding last names, which are markers of caste, social status, and ethnicity, they aim to make way for inclusion under a different name—Laye—signifying Child of God. In reality, Laye is mostly symbolic as Layene maintain their last names for official purposes, yet use Laye consistently when interacting with other Layene. Just as someone can convert to Islam and have the same status as someone who was born Muslim, Layene see naming as a tool to be open and welcoming instead of exclusive, based on social categories. This entails what Peters (2009) might call a ‘pedagogy of inclusion’. Most Layene members I talked to said that the last name Laye was to recognize everyone's inherent equality in the eyes of God. This is what I mean by discursive construction of semiotic meaning. Mbaye Seck often repeated the phrase “Ku gën mooy ku gënna ragal Yalla [Those who are better are those who fear God],” thus refuting the sentiment that humans can distinguish themselves through names, riches, and power.

In mainstream Senegalese society, naming is how people relate to one another on a basic level. During occasions such as ceremonies, the importance of social rank as established by kinship determines whether you are included in the gift exchange or excluded. These phenomena we have seen throughout Mauss's (2000) work. In the case of marriage, the erasure of names symbolizes an openness to inter-ethnic marriages, avoiding strictly endogamous marriages based on kinship. In contrast, many Wolof parents will refuse a marriage proposal for their daughter from someone who is not Wolof. For the Layene, erasing names is not just about a shared identity as children of God, but about making space for exchange (material and symbolic) with an equal other.

Visual Representations of Equality: “White Is the Color of Our Heart”

In a country known for its vibrant wax fabrics and beautifully colorful clothing, the women and men I saw going about their daily lives in Camberene or during dahira sessions chose to wear white (see fig. 2). Especially for dahira, the norm was all-white attire: white veil, white dress, white tunic.

Figure 2:
Figure 2:

Dahira meeting, Camberene. Photograph © Emily Jenan Riley

Citation: Religion and Society 12, 1; 10.3167/arrs.2021.120115

During one of my first trips to Yoff, I could not help but notice the uniformity of everyone's dress. Women wore a white skirt and flowing top, with a white headscarf and veil draped over their heads and swept across their shoulders; their legs and arms were covered. Men wore a white, loose-fitting long tunic with matching pants. This was so different from the fashion landscape of the rest of Dakar. I asked another member of Teral Gan, Ami, whose religious leader we had visited together, what the significance was of wearing all white. “White is the color of our heart. The heart doesn't distinguish between rich and poor,” she replied. Another member who was huddled on the floor next to us, a great grandson of Seydina Limamou Laye, chimed in: “Couleur bi ngay sol, rafet, loolu la sa xol wara mel, sa xol dafa wara rafet [The color you wear should be beautiful, the way your heart should be beautiful].” White was said to be the symbol of purity and a color of peace and unity, reflective of one's heart. For the Layene, a pure heart is a heart joined with all other hearts, blind to this world's differences such as race and class (and yet not necessarily gender), elements that have historically been important to Senegalese social structure. White reflects both the outside and inside, representing peace and purity, as well as social and economic equality, essential components of the Layene teachings. Although there are no pictures of him, Seydina Limamou Laye was also said to have worn a white uniform—a wrap around his waist, a long cloak, and a turban.

Just as chanting sikr creates a shared ritual environment, the wearing of white clothing also symbolizes a transition to or occupation of a shared religious space and identity. On many occasions of all-day religious events that I observed, the morning gatherings and sermons did not have a dress code. However, for afternoon and evening events where sikr was conducted, white clothing was strictly enforced. Members were turned away or not allowed to pray under the large tent if they were not wearing white. Female singers sitting in the center of the tent were scrutinized the most for transgression of uniform. By changing into white clothing and simplifying their dress, Layene members entered a space of equality. Most of them told me that the white outfits are also important because they are the cheapest, ensuring that all members could pay to have an outfit made. This was for convenience, but it was also to protest the segregating factors of wealth and social status.

Conclusion

In this article, I have demonstrated the connections between the concept of sharedness and the particular beliefs and practices of the Layene community. In the case of the Layene, the co-construction of sharedness as teraanga is brought about by an erasure and reconstruction of a shared, equal, and even unified identity. The belief that the service of God can only truly be accomplished by service to equal others takes on several practical, communal, and personally embodied performances. These are produced by intentionally repetitive actions, such that, as Abby Day (2011: 6) argues, religious practice “will be propositional, affective, embodied, and performed.” Therefore, the symbolic erasure of last names and wearing white clothing are ways to make space for community, which is then constantly re-established through singing sikr daily or social greetings that reinforce one's identity as Layene while acknowledging equal others.

Teraanga, as a core ethic of the Layene, is made possible by a negotiated shift toward community sharedness as opposed to individual identity. It is important to remember that the founding of the Layene came about during a time of great disruption due to imperial imposition and divisions within the Lebu community. Therefore, teraanga is reimagined as a tool for creating sharedness. In other words, one must share (wealth, ideas, beliefs, stories, ritual) in order to thrive spiritually as much as materially. One Layene friend told me that you could find a nod to teraanga in every line of Seydina Limamou Laye's sermons. As well, the oft-repeated stories of Coumba Ndoye, Seydina Limamou Laye's mother, and her propensity for hospitality serve as reminders and inspiration for women like Aicha and Mami of the Teral Gan group. The question of giving hospitality or offering financial assistance means that Layene interpretations of sharedness bring together both discourse and practice.

Acknowledgments

I would like to begin by thanking Michigan State University, the MSU African Studies Center, and the Department of Anthropology for their support during my doctoral work. I am deeply indebted to Chantal Tetreault for her guidance during my time at MSU and beyond. This research could not have been conducted without the support of a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award, or the countless Foreign Language and Area Studies grants I received from the US Department of Education to learn Wolof. The West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal, was my home away from home intellectually and emotionally. I am grateful to its director Dr. Sene, the staff, and my humble Wolof professor, Sidy Gueye. Thank you to the West African Research Association for a postdoctoral grant to continue research in Senegal after receiving my PhD. With regard to this article, and much more, I am grateful to Mbaye Seck and his family for their teraanga. I would also like to thank Aicha and the Seck family in Ouagou Niayes and the Layene community, who without reservation accepted my presence and membership among them. You all demonstrated the purest form of teraanga that exists. I extend thanks to my current institution, El Colegio de México, and especially the Center for Asian and African Studies for allowing me intellectual space and time to continue my research.

Notes

1

Géwël is a specifically Wolof griot, different from griots among the Malinke and other ethnicities.

2

The Lebu are a sub-group of the dominant Wolof ethnicity.

3

Griots are traditional praise-singers, genealogists, musicians, and members of the lower caste. Their role has been to provide entertainment at ceremonies and other gatherings, and to represent the honor of members of noble-caste families by reciting and preserving their history and performing tasks in connection with life-cycle events.

4

Soxna is the Wolof term for Mrs. or Madame.

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  • Glover, John. 2013. “The Prophet Muhammad Reincarnated and His Son, Jesus: Re-centering Islam among the Layenne of Senegal.” Journal of Historical Geography 42: 2435. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2013.04.017.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hale, Thomas A. 1998. Griots and Griottes: Masters of Words and Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Halverson, Jeffrey R. 2020. “Embodying the Mahdi: Islamic Messianism and the Body in Colonial Senegal.” Journal of Africana Religions 8 (1): 3761.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Irvine, Judith T. 1973. “Caste and Communication in a Wolof Village: A Dissertation in Anthropology.” Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Laborde, Cécile. 1995. La Confrérie layenne et les Lébou du Sénégal: Islam et culture traditionnelle en Afrique [The Layene Brotherhood and the Lebu of Senegal: Islam and Traditional Culture in Africa]. Bordeaux: Institut d'études politiques de Bordeaux.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mauss, Marcel. 2000. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Trans. W. D. Halls. New York: W. W. Norton.

  • McLaughlin, Fiona. 2001. “Dakar Wolof and the Configuration of an Urban Identity.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 14 (2): 153172.

  • Mori, Keiko. 2003. “The Layennes, an Islamic Brotherhood of Senegal and Their Beliefs in Reincarnations of Prophet Muhammad as the Father and Jesus Christ as the Son.” Journal of African Studies 62: 330. https://doi.org/10.11619/africa1964.2003.3.

    • Crossref
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    • Export Citation
  • Peters, Michael A. 2009. “Welcome! Postscript on Hospitality, Cosmopolitanism, and the Other.” In Derrida, Deconstruction, and the Politics of Pedagogy, Michael A. Peters and Gert Biesta, 133138. New York: Peter Lang.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Robinson, David. 1997. “Review of ‘La Confrérie Layenne et les Lebou du Sénégal: Islam et culture traditionelle en Afrique’, Cécile Laborde.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 30 (3): 654656.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ross, Eric. 2013. “Christmas in Cambérène, or How Muhammad Begets Jesus in Senegal.” In Muslims and Others in Sacred Space, ed. Margaret Cormack, 74107. New York: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sarr, Fatou. 1998. L'Entrepreneuriat féminin au Sénégal: La transformation des rapports de pouvoirs [Women's entrepreneurship in Senegal: The transformation of power relations]. Paris: L'Harmattan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schulz, Dorothea E. 2011. Muslims and New Media in West Africa: Pathways to God. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Seck, Abdourahmane. 2015. “Après le développement: Détours paradigmatiques et philosophie de l'histoire au Sénégal: Une contribution africaine au temps des communs” [After development: Paradigmatic detours and the philosophy of history in Senegal: An African contribution to the time of the commons]. Présence Africaine 192: 1332.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sylla, Assane, and Mamadou Sakhir Gaye. 1985. Le Mahdi, Seydina Mouhamadou Limamou Laye du Sénégal [The Mahdi, Seydina Mouhamadou Limamou Laye of Senegal], 2nd ed. Dakar: Rufisque National Printing Office.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thomas, Douglas H. 2012. Sufism, Mahdism and Nationalism: Limamou Laye and the Layennes of Senegal. New York: Continuum International Publishing.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Contributor Notes

EMILY JENAN RILEY is an Assistant Professor and Researcher in the Center for Asian and African Studies at El Colegio de México, where she gives classes in social science methodologies, African studies, and topics of gender and nation. Having received her doctorate in Cultural Anthropology at Michigan State University, she specializes in questions of gender, politics, teraanga, and religion in Senegal and West Africa. Her other publications have focused on women's social strategies and activism in Senegalese state politics. She is currently working on a book manuscript that documents the political strategies of the gender parity movement in Senegal and elite women in Senegalese politics. E-mail: eriley@colmex.mx

Religion and Society

Advances in Research

  • View in gallery

    Mbaye Seck Laye walking toward Diamalaye, Yoff-Layene. Photograph © Emily Jenan Riley

  • View in gallery

    Dahira meeting, Camberene. Photograph © Emily Jenan Riley

  • Anchimbe, Eric A. 2011. “On Not Calling People by Their Names: Pragmatic Undertones of Sociocultural Relationships in a Postcolony.” Journal of Pragmatics 43 (6): 14721483.

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  • , Sélou. 2014. “Éditorial: Au pays des Noirs” [Editorial: In the land of Blacks]. Waa Soodaan, 25 May. http://waasoodaan.canalblog.com/archives/2014/05/25/31554005.html.

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  • Basse, Ababacar Laye. 2003. Les enseignements de Seydina Limamou Lahi (PSL) [The teachings of Seydina Limamou Lahi]. Dakar: n.p.

  • Bellinger, Robert A. 2013. “The Géwël Tradition Project: Supporting a Living Tradition.” African Arts 46 (1): 6271.

  • Covington-Ward, Yolanda. 2016. Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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  • Day, Abby. 2011. Believing in Belonging: Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Dieng, Bassirou. 2008. Société Wolof et discours du pouvoir: Analyse des récits épiques du Kajoor [Wolof society and the discourse of power: Analysis of the epic stories of Kajoor]. Dakar: University Press of Dakar.

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    • Export Citation
  • Diop, Abdoulaye-Bara. 1981. La société Wolof: Tradition et changement [Wolof society: Tradition and change]. Paris: Editions Karthala.

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    • Export Citation
  • Gaye, El Hâdj Mouhammad Sa'khîr. n.d. “Guide des Serviteurs de DIEU vers ce qui est authentique dans les Sermons de Seydinâ Limâmou Lâhi (PSL)” [A guide for the disciples of God to the authentic sermons of Seydinâ Limâmoou Lâhi]. Unpublished document.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Glover, John. 2013. “The Prophet Muhammad Reincarnated and His Son, Jesus: Re-centering Islam among the Layenne of Senegal.” Journal of Historical Geography 42: 2435. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2013.04.017.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hale, Thomas A. 1998. Griots and Griottes: Masters of Words and Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Halverson, Jeffrey R. 2020. “Embodying the Mahdi: Islamic Messianism and the Body in Colonial Senegal.” Journal of Africana Religions 8 (1): 3761.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Irvine, Judith T. 1973. “Caste and Communication in a Wolof Village: A Dissertation in Anthropology.” Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Laborde, Cécile. 1995. La Confrérie layenne et les Lébou du Sénégal: Islam et culture traditionnelle en Afrique [The Layene Brotherhood and the Lebu of Senegal: Islam and Traditional Culture in Africa]. Bordeaux: Institut d'études politiques de Bordeaux.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mauss, Marcel. 2000. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Trans. W. D. Halls. New York: W. W. Norton.

  • McLaughlin, Fiona. 2001. “Dakar Wolof and the Configuration of an Urban Identity.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 14 (2): 153172.

  • Mori, Keiko. 2003. “The Layennes, an Islamic Brotherhood of Senegal and Their Beliefs in Reincarnations of Prophet Muhammad as the Father and Jesus Christ as the Son.” Journal of African Studies 62: 330. https://doi.org/10.11619/africa1964.2003.3.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Peters, Michael A. 2009. “Welcome! Postscript on Hospitality, Cosmopolitanism, and the Other.” In Derrida, Deconstruction, and the Politics of Pedagogy, Michael A. Peters and Gert Biesta, 133138. New York: Peter Lang.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Robinson, David. 1997. “Review of ‘La Confrérie Layenne et les Lebou du Sénégal: Islam et culture traditionelle en Afrique’, Cécile Laborde.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 30 (3): 654656.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ross, Eric. 2013. “Christmas in Cambérène, or How Muhammad Begets Jesus in Senegal.” In Muslims and Others in Sacred Space, ed. Margaret Cormack, 74107. New York: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sarr, Fatou. 1998. L'Entrepreneuriat féminin au Sénégal: La transformation des rapports de pouvoirs [Women's entrepreneurship in Senegal: The transformation of power relations]. Paris: L'Harmattan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schulz, Dorothea E. 2011. Muslims and New Media in West Africa: Pathways to God. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  • Seck, Abdourahmane. 2015. “Après le développement: Détours paradigmatiques et philosophie de l'histoire au Sénégal: Une contribution africaine au temps des communs” [After development: Paradigmatic detours and the philosophy of history in Senegal: An African contribution to the time of the commons]. Présence Africaine 192: 1332.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sylla, Assane, and Mamadou Sakhir Gaye. 1985. Le Mahdi, Seydina Mouhamadou Limamou Laye du Sénégal [The Mahdi, Seydina Mouhamadou Limamou Laye of Senegal], 2nd ed. Dakar: Rufisque National Printing Office.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thomas, Douglas H. 2012. Sufism, Mahdism and Nationalism: Limamou Laye and the Layennes of Senegal. New York: Continuum International Publishing.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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