Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Religious communities in Senegal, particularly those organized within Sufi Muslim orders, are influential in social life, political participation, and local economies. Because of their place in Senegalese life, they are also driving forces in economic and environmental revitalization projects. This paper focuses on residents of two daaras (rural residential spiritual communities) that are addressing long-term drought and region-wide economic insecurity through communal agriculture, spiritual teachings, and trade education. While most of the daara residents are affiliated with the Baay Fall suborder of the Murid Sufi order, the daaras include others attracted to their commitment to environmental and economic revitalization. The shaykh who organized these daaras invites all residents and visitors to understand their role and their work there through a spiritual lens. This paper explores the motivations of residents to join the daara, in their own words. Each person interviewed talked about joining the daara as part of their spiritual—even mystical—path, but did so from different religious perspectives. Because spiritually-motivated work is a common topic of conversation, residents share common phrases and metaphors to describe this work. However, they each interpret their labor in terms of their individual religious identity, beliefs, and practices.