Islamization from Below: The Making of Muslim Communities in Rural French Sudan, 1880-1960

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The colonial era in Africa, spanning less than a century, ushered in a more rapid expansion of Islam than at any time during the previous thousand years. In this groundbreaking historical investigation, Brian J. Peterson considers for the first time how and why rural peoples in West Africa "became Muslim" under French colonialism.

Peterson rejects conventional interpretations that emphasize the roles of states, jihads, and elites in "converting" people, arguing instead that the expansion of Islam owed its success to the mobility of thousands of rural people who gradually, and usually peacefully, adopted the new religion on their own. Based on extensive fieldwork in villages across southern Mali (formerly French Sudan) and on archival research in West Africa and France, the book draws a detailed new portrait of grassroots, multi-generational processes of Islamization in French Sudan while also deepening our understanding of the impact and unintended consequences of colonialism.

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Editorial Reviews

David Robinson
"A well researched and written narrative and analysis, Islamization from Below lives up to its promise of bringing new insight to the process by which Islam has become the majority religious practice of significant areas of West Africa. I do not know of any comparable works. His work should interest students and scholars of African and West African history, Islam and religious studies."—David Robinson, Michigan State University
John Hanson
“Peterson has produced an excellent study based on his probing of colonial documents and extensive use of oral testimony about the past. He underscores the sociological aspects of Islam's allure and the role of former slaves, retired soldiers, and labor migrants in the integration of Islam into the local religious heritage. The comprehensiveness of the analysis means that this work is a very significant contribution to the literature on colonial rule, with fine reconstructions of economic and administrative transformations.”—John H. Hanson, Indiana University
American Historical Review
“One of the most important and inspired works on Islam in Africa.”—American Historical Review 
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300152708
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian J. Peterson is assistant professor of history, Union College. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

Abbreviations xiv

Introduction 1

1 The Wars of Samori 24

2 Reconstructing a Fragmented World 57

3 Slave Emancipation and the Expansion of Islam, 1905-1914 87

4 Coping with Colonialism 122

5 Transforming the Village 155

6 Migrants and the Dialectics of Conversion, 1930-1960 184

7 Changes in the Religious Landscape 215

Conclusion 251

Glossary 258

Notes 261

Index 309

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