Islam, Power, and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin

Islam, Power, and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin

The Politics of Land Control, 1790-1940

Assan Sarr


University of Rochester Press



An original, rigorously researched volume that questions long-accepted paradigms concerning land ownership and its use in Africa.
Islam, Power, and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin draws on new sources to offer an original approach to the study of land in African history. Documenting the impact of Islamization, the development of peanut production, and the institution of colonial rule on people living along the middle and lower Gambia River, the book shows how these waves of changes sweeping the region after 1850 altered local political and social arrangements, with important implications for the ability of elites to control land.

Author Assan Sarr argues for a nuanced understanding of land and its historic value in Africa. Moving beyond a recognition of the material value of land, Sarr's analysis highlights its cultural and social worth, pointing out the spiritual associations the land generated and the ways that certain people gained privileged access to those spiritual powers. By emphasizing that the land around the Gambia River both inspired and gave form to a cosmology of ritual and belief, the book points to what might be considered an indigenous tradition of ecological preservation and protection.

Assan Sarr is assistant professor of history at Ohio University.


2 black and white, 3 line illustrations
258 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
Hardback, 9781580465694, December 2016
eBook, 9781782048701, December 2016
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001050, REL037000
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Table of Contents

The Founding of Mandinka Settlements
Land and the Politics of Exclusion
The Power of the Wild Spirits
The End of Soninke Rule
Spiritual Persistence though Change
The Politicization of Chieftaincy


Assan Sarr is making me rethink much of what I thought I knew, from four decades of study, about land, politics, and society along the lower Gambia River in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is African history at its best. -- Donald R. Wright, Distinguished Teaching Professor of History Emeritus, SUNY Cortland

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