The prayer economy in a Malian town

TitleThe prayer economy in a Malian town
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsB.F. Soares
Secondary TitleCahiers d'├ętudes africaines
Pagination739 - 753
Date Published1996///
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsIslam, Mali, Muslim brotherhoods, pilgrimages

In the late twentieth century, Nioro du Sahel, an economically marginal town in Mali, has become an important regional pilgrimage centre for Muslims. The present paper discusses the prayer economy in this town, the rather complex but pervasive practices in which gifts are given to certain Muslim religious leaders on a large scale. It focuses on the celebrated leaders of two Sufi brotherhoods - the Tijaniyya and the Hamawiyya - , their numerous followers, and their relationships, which set the context for the gift transfers. It shows how the prayer economy operates through the circulation of capital - economic, political, and spiritual or symbolic - which particular social actors are able to convert from one domain to another, with the result that in particular places, the economy fuses economic and political elites with religious leaders. This feature of the prayer economy marks a significant shift in the organization of religious practice. Ties between religious leaders and some, mostly elite, followers are no longer mediated primarily through membership of a particular Sufi brotherhood but rather through access to some of the central material tokens of value in society. This shift indicates the fragility of the hegemony of the prayer economy. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French

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