Senegal has experienced a wave of women entering state politics since 2012, after passing a gender quota law requiring equal parts men and women in elected positions. Their presence has been controversial in the male-dominated space of politics. Yet women have always been present and active in formal and informal politics. This talk considers the community-based, cultural work that political actors are carrying out to effect substantive change in Senegalese public life. Case studies to be presented here follow the political trajectories of several female parliamentarians in the Senegalese government, and their style of politics that negotiate tropes of gender and identity. It will also consider the resistance that they have faced as a result of their effort. Their strategies include: embedded work within their communities, participation in women’s groups, and sustained collaboration with development-focused organizations. They engage with the Wolof cultural concept of teraanga, a philosophy of generosity and openness extended to others as a way to create community and political authority. This talk will suggest that teraanga informs women’s authority within the government and beyond. By constructing a personality of generosity, femininity, and religiosity, these women embody a style of politics that is at once typically Senegalese while also global.
This talk is sponsored by African Cultural Studies, Anthropology, and Anonymous Fund.