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Peanuts, Pangool, and Places: Constellations of Colonial Capitalism in Rural Senegal

  • François RichardEmail author
Original Article
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Abstract

Histories of cash-crop agriculture in Senegal’s peanut basin have foregrounded the sway of market forces—an economic story of supply and demand staging metropolitan industrial needs, commercial entrepreneurialism, and profitable returns with both planned and unplanned developments. The political connivance between commercial crops and French rule is also well documented. The relentless expansion of peanut cultivation in Senegal’s hinterland was promoted by colonial policies and collusions between the French administration and Muslim brotherhoods. African farmers were not idle bystanders to these transformations, as peasant social strategies were centrally implicated in the (re)construction of colonial countrysides. While accounts illuminate the broad structural forces and human institutions involved in the commodification of African rural worlds, they frequently overlook the contributions of a host of other historical actors: the unsung, yet influential, nonhuman agencies that were integral components of farming ecologies, shaped people’s affective belonging to their landscapes, and actively mediated histories of capitalist transformations. In this article I attend specifically to the overlapping roles and material effects of three categories of “inanimate actors” in the adoption of cash cropping in the Senegalese province of Siin: peanuts, pangool (ancestral spirits), and places. Drawing on Adorno’s (1973) concept of “constellation” and Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) idea of “assemblage,” I examine how the tangible properties of crops, spiritual beings, and rural geography (and the social practices it nurtured) combined to assist and disrupt the operations of capital and government. Peanuts, pangool, and places drew humans and nonhumans into material constellations that cut across the plain of political economic analysis and offset totalizing visions of global capitalism; they reveal alternative tales of power, labor, and intimacy, “understories” that speak to the contingent, hybrid, and unfinished histories of colonial modernity in Africa.

Keywords

assemblage cash cropping capitalism constellation French colonialism inanimate actors peanuts peasants Senegal spirits social geographies 

Extracto

El estudio de la agricultura comercial en la cuenca del maní de Senegal ha subrayado el papel que desempeñaron las fuerzas del mercado: una historia económica de la oferta y la demanda, dentro de la cual se destacan las necesidades industriales metropolitanas, el espíritu emprendedor, y la lógica de la ganancia, así como sus efectos previstos e imprevistos. La connivencia política entre los cultivos de renta y la dominación francesa también está bien documentada. La expansión de la cultura del maní en el interior de Senegal fue impulsada por las políticas coloniales y por las colaboraciones tejidas entre la administración francesa y las cofradías musulmanas. Los campesinos africanos no permanecieron inactivos ante esos retos, y sus estrategias sociales impactaron la (re)construcción de las campañas coloniales. Si bien se ha destacado el juego de las fuerzas estructurales y las instituciones humanas en el proceso de “comodificación” del mundo rural africano, a menudo la investigación ha pasado por alto las contribuciones de una variedad de actores históricos: las agentividades no humanas, pero no menos influyentes, que formaban parte integral de las ecologías rurales, garantizaban un enlace afectivo entre los habitantes y sus paisajes, y modularon las transformaciones capitalistas en el campo. En este artículo, me interesan particularmente tres categorías de “agentes inanimados” y sus efectos sobre la adopción de cultivos de renta en la pequeña provincia senegalesa de Siin: el maní, los pangool (espíritus ancestrales) y lugares. Inspirado por los conceptos de “constelación” (Adorno 1973) y de “ensamblaje” (Deleuze y Guattari 1987), indago cómo se combinaron las propiedades concretas de las culturas, de los seres espirituales y de la geografía (y de las prácticas sociales que engendraron) y cómo facilitaron o impidieron las operaciones del capital y del gobierno. El maní, los pangool y los lugares han involucrado a humanos y no humanos en constelaciones materiales, cuyos efectos trascienden un simple diagnóstico económico y matizan una visión a veces totalizadora del capitalismo mundial. Más bien, cuentan relatos alternativos de poder, trabajo, e intimidad, “historias desde abajo” que expresan el carácter contingente, híbrido e inacabado de la modernidad colonial en África.

Résumé

L'étude de l’agriculture marchande dans le bassin arachidier du Sénégal a primé le rôle des forces du marché, une histoire économique de l’offre et de la demande qui met en scène les besoins industriels métropolitains, l’esprit d'entreprise, et la logique du bénéfice—ainsi que leurs effets, prévus et imprévus. La connivence politique entre les agricultures de rente et la domination française est également bien documentée. L’expansion de la culture de l’arachide dans l’arrière-pays du Sénégal a été impulsée par les politiques coloniales et par des collaborations tissées entre l’administration française et les confréries musulmanes. Les paysans africains ne sont pas resté inactifs face à ces enjeux, et leurs stratégies sociales furent pleinement impliquées dans la (re)construction des campagnes coloniales. Si la recherche a bien souligné le jeu des forces structurelles et des institutions humaines dans la marchandisation du monde rural africain, elle a souvent négligé les contributions d’une gamme d’acteurs historiques : les agentivités non-humaines, mais non moins influentes, qui faisaient partie intégrante des écologies rurales, assuraient un lien affectif entre les habitants et leurs paysages, et ont amorti l'ampleur des transformations capitalistes dans les campagnes. Je m’intéresse tout particulièrement dans cet article aux effets matériels de trois catégories d’« acteurs inanimés » sur l’adoption de la culture de rente dans la petite province sénégalaise du Siin : les arachides, les pangool (esprits ancestraux), et les lieux. M’inspirant du concept de « constellation » d’Adorno (1973) et de l’idée d’« assemblage » de Deleuze et Guattari (1987), j’examine comment les propriétés concrètes des cultures, des êtres spirituels et de la géographie rurale (et les pratiques sociales qu’elles suscitaient) se sont mises de concert pour faciliter et entraver les opérations du capital et du gouvernement. Les arachides, les pangool et les lieux ont placé humains et non-humains dans des constellations matérielles, dont les effets transcendent un simple diagnostic économique, et nuancent une vision parfois totalisante du capitalisme mondial. Plutôt, ils révèlent des récits alternatifs de pouvoir, de travail et d’intimité, des « histories d'en dessous » qui expriment le caractère contingent, hybride, et inachevé de la modernité coloniale en Afrique.

Notes

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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoU.S.A.

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