IS Academy seminar
Thursday 27 October 2011
12.00-14.00 (12.00-12.30 lunch)
Conference room VNO-NCW building, Bezuidenhoutseweg 12, Den Haag
Negotiating Islam and Democracy in Sahelian Africa:
Senegal, Mali, Niger
by Prof. Leonardo A. Villalón, African Politics, University of Florida
discussant: Carmen Hagenaars, cluster coordinator West Africa, Ministry of
This talk will address the issue of the elaboration of democracy in Muslim
societies, via a comparative consideration of three West African countries:
Senegal, Mali and Niger. It departs from analyses that ask whether democracy can be established in Muslim societies,to examine instead how the
democratic question is framed and discussed in such religious contexts. As
overwhelmingly Muslim countries that have been deeply involved in efforts at establishing democratic systems for some two decades, these three countries present particularly fruitful terrain for exploring this question. The talk will focus on the the ways in which the launching of African democratic experiments in the 1990s provoked significant negotiation and discussion both within religious society and between religious groups and the secular elite about the desired substance of democracy, in a number of key domains.
I will argue that these processes have gradually empowered Muslim majorities to challenge and nuance the agenda presented at the transitions, but that this is a direct outcome of the democratic process itself. Rather than seeing the increased public presence of religious discourse in these
societies as a reflection of an Islamic resurgence, I argue, we should
consider it a normal byproduct of democratic politics. I will suggest in
conclusion that these cases may bear interesting lessons for the likely
evolution of politics in the North African countries.
Leonardo Villalón is Associate professor of African Politics at the
University of Florida, where he served as director of the Center for African Studies from 2002-2011. His research focuses on Islam and politics and on democratization in the Francophone countries of the Sahel. From 2007-09 he was named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, for research in Senegal, Mali and Niger on a project entitled: “Negotiating Democracy in Muslim Contexts: Political Liberalization and Religious Mobilization in the West African Sahel.”
This seminar is organized by the African Studies Centre as part of the IS
Academy’s series of lectures.
Venue: VNO-NCW Building, Bezuidenhoutseweg 12 (opposite Ministry of
Foreign Affairs), Den Haag. Please bring your identitfication.
Registration: 24 October at the latest at:
You are all welcome!