The formation of an 'Islamic sphere' in French Colonial West Africa

Robert Launay*, Benjamin F. Soares

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


One of the most unintended consequences of colonial rule in French West Africa was the Islamization of large parts of it. Islamic movements have often been interpreted in specifically political terms, as instances of 'collaboration' with or 'resistance' to colonial domination. They can better be understood in terms of the emergence of a qualitatively new 'Islamic sphere' conceptually separate from 'particular' affiliations such as ethnicity, kin group membership or slave origins, as well as from the colonial state. This paper considers two cases in detail: the Hamawiyya, a branch of the Tijani Sufi order whose leader was exiled by the French and which was brutally repressed in the 1940s; and the 'Wahhabiyya', an anti-Sufi movement which emerged after World War II.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-519
Number of pages23
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999


  • Colonialism
  • French West Africa
  • Hamallah
  • Islam
  • Sufism
  • Wahhabiyya

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • General Social Sciences


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