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‘The tales of tomorrow’: towards a futurist vision of Wolof tradition

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Boubacar Boris Diop's novel Doomi Golo (2003)/Les Petits de la guenon (2009) elaborates a specifically futurist aesthetic of traditionality. Drawing on the shift in anthropology towards understanding traditionality as a construct rather than an intrinsic trait, I show how this novel strongly thematizes the inventedness of Senegalese oral traditions and calls for their reinvention in order to help imagine a more democratic society in the future. Oral traditions serve here to critique forms of domination based on gender and age, which have been identified by some scholars as ‘traditional’ power structures. Diop's novel, which I read both in its Wolof original and in the French adaptation made by the author, thus imagines a liberation from tradition-as-power through tradition-as-genre: because the category of tradition always depends to a certain extent on an act of invention, it can be reinvented to justify liberation rather than patriarchal domination, thereby serving the needs of the future rather than the past. This futurist vision parallels the novel's status as a call to constitute a future Wolof-language readership which remains, for now, limited.
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Keywords: Boubacar Boris Diop; Senegalese literature; Wolof language; francophone; tradition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: French Department, Reed College, Portland, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2015

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