Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad--Bilateral Projects

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Summer 2016 Seminars for Postsecondary School Educators (U.S. community colleges, 4-year public/private institutions)


Seminar Title: Religion and Diversity in West Africa
Duration: May 23, 2016 - June 22, 2016
Participants: Faculty and administrators from U.S. community colleges, 4-year public/private institutions in the fields of social sciences, arts, humanities, foreign languages, and area studies

Program Content:

Conflict based on religious and social identity is widely regarded as a threat to stability in West Africa. Christianity, Islam, and indigenous religions come together in the region and compete for the hearts and minds of residents. The rapid expansion of Fundamentalist Christianity in many countries and the emergence of radical Islamic groups like Boko Haram have raised fears of expanding religious extremism and religiously based conflict. Each country in West Africa includes numerous ethnic groups with distinct languages, cultures, and traditions, and wars that have ravaged countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau in recent years have included ethnic, regional, religious, and racial components.

Senegal stands out as an example of a diverse country where relative social harmony prevails. A variety of Muslim brotherhoods have played historically important roles in Senegal, yet radical forms of Islam have not taken root. The Muslim majority coexists peacefully with a sizable Christian minority. Ethnic diversity usually serves as an important resource for Senegal rather than a source of conflict.

This seminar will explore religious and cultural diversity in West Africa. We will consider why religious and identity-based conflict has arisen in some countries, while focusing on the ways that Senegal has been able to maintain relative social harmony. The seminar will be based at the West African Research Center in Dakar. Academics, religious leaders, and activists from diverse disciplines and organizations will introduce the region’s history, review the three main religious traditions, discuss the unique cultures of various ethnic groups, and explore the sources of social conflict and harmony. We will travel to Gorée, Saint-Louis, Touba, Djiloor and Toubacouta in Seereer Country and Ziguinchor and Cap Skirring in Casamance and visit mosques and churches, historic, cultural, and political sites, civil society groups, and universities.

Seminar participants will develop an understanding of the diversity that exists in West Africa, why it sometimes inspires conflict, and how it can be a social resource. The seminar will explore Senegal as a diverse society with peaceful ethnic and religious coexistence. Participants will gain particular insight into the expressions of Islam, Christianity, and indigenous religions and how they interact in the region as well as broad knowledge about the country of Senegal to integrate into their classes and share with their colleagues and communities.

"Contingent upon the availability of funds, quality of applications, travel alerts or identifiable concerns,
seminar selection may be changed or canceled."

NOTE: The Department is not bound by any estimates in this notice.


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Last Modified: 03/24/2016