FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Religious diversity and tradition in Burkina Faso: historical and contemporary challenges – DivTradBF

Religious diversity and traditions in Burkina Faso

Religious diversity and traditions in Burkina Faso: historical and current issues (DivTrad_BF)

Interrogating the history and contemporaneity of the notions of tradition and traditional religion

This project aims to question the ambiguity between the notions of tradition and traditional religions, often referred to by the same term in local languages in Burkina Faso. Instead of focusing on predefined conceptual entities, it proposes a pragmatic and epistemological approach to the practices and discourses of artists, intellectuals, cadets and customary notables, in order to observe the relationship between tradition and local religions and to question the issues of their reappropriation. Far from being relegated to the past, the debates on what is traditional religion and/or tradition remain topical in Burkinabè society. The aim is to question the historical and contemporary issues of these «traditions« within the religious diversity of Burkina Faso. How do the shifts, limits and similarities between traditional religion and tradition operate in the practices and discourses of the actors? To what extent do they reappropriate «tradition«? And how does this make sense in the current context of Burkina Faso? Traditional religions are nowadays much in demand in the fight against violent extremism without it being possible to clearly specify what their contribution could be. The aim is to study the multiple positions towards tradition and traditional religions of actors in specific social, political and historical processes. In order to answer these questions, the project has been organized around five work packages (WP): WP1. The discourses of political and intellectual elites; WP2. The performing arts; WP3. The chieftaincy; WP4. Ordinary« practices such as nomination; WP.5 The re-articulation of tradition and its patrimonialization in rural areas. The DivTrad_BF project relies on a French team (IRD-Imaf) and a German team (University of Mainz, Ifeas) who are co-supervising four Master's students in Burkina Faso and who are also collaborating with researchers (INSS/CNRST; Joseph Ki-Zerbo University) and Burkinabe artists, both in the field research phases, the methodological reflections and the valorization of the research.

This project brings together researchers from several disciplinary backgrounds, particularly socio-anthropology, history, and comparative literature/theatrical studies. All of them are questioning the notions of traditional traditions and religions according to methodologies that are specific to their disciplines, but they have in common a qualitative approach and the need to go through a stage of empirical research on fieldwork, in this case in Burkina Faso.
The collection of qualitative data on fieldwork is also the basis of the approach of the artists who collaborate with the researchers in the DivTrad_BF project. The project includes a methodological approach of research-creation in collaboration with the street theater collective ACMUR and the storyteller KPG. This collaboration includes common field surveys, work sessions around the writing of pieces composed within the framework of the project in connection with the research, the organization of two workshops at the beginning of the project at mid-term.

As the project is currently in its mid-term phase, it is still premature to give definitive scientific results. Nevertheless, the activities organized in the first phase of the program highlight the multiplicity of social uses of the notion of tradition in Burkinabe society. Fieldwork research was conducted in the 5 WPs of the project and their progress was presented in the two workshops organized in Ouagadougou. In Yatenga, a meeting of the buguba, a traveling photographic exhibition and a school drawing contest were organized. In addition, a play («Les traditions du futur«) was performed several times in Burkina Faso in 2022, and the process was documented. At the same time, a group of four Master's students (history, theater studies, comparative literature and anthropology) was formed and coached by teachers-researchers from their respective universities and researchers from the project.

In the coming period, the researchers will continue their field activities, while working on a common publication, in the form of a collective book and/or a special issue of a journal. A new line of research common to several members of the team, which joins the one on nomination (WP.4), is emerging around religions, traditions and new family configurations. This line of research allows us to explore the way in which religious plurality and traditional practices are articulated in the daily life of Burkinabe families, particularly «mixed« families in terms of religion. The work on first names and new forms of marriage are part of this perspective. In addition to scientific publications, the researchers working on these issues are planning to conduct photographic research with a Burkinabè artist. Our partnerships with artists have led us to deepen the methodology of research-creation, which is currently in full development. In this perspective, we plan to organize a study day in Paris in 2023, focusing on methodological and theoretical issues. A final scientific event will also be organized in June 2024.

The scientific productions will be put online on the project website (under construction)

2021, Katrin Langewiesche, « L’enquête ethnographique comme performance. Comment les collaborations avec des artistes façonnent les recherches », Ateliers du 27-30/9/2021 L’engagement ethnographique – observer, décrire et comprendre l’expérience humaine, Université de Genève

2022, Katrin Langewiesche, présentation du projet lors du Colloque « Pour une Europe des Sciences humaines et sociales, 15 ans de recherche Franco-allemande », 14-15 juin 2022, Paris

2022, Film « Rencontre des Buguba », 15 minutes

This project starts from the ambiguity of the notions of tradition and traditional religion, which are often referred to by the same term in local languages of Burkina Faso. Based on this observation, it proposes a pragmatic and epistemological approach to observe the relationship between tradition and local religions through the practices and discourses of artists, intellectuals, young people and local leaders, rather than focusing on pre-defined conceptual units. Far from being relegated to the past, debates about traditional religion and/or tradition in Burkinabe society remain timely. The project focuses on the historical and contemporary challenges of these "traditions" within Burkina Faso's religious diversity. The main question, therefore, concerns the relationships that these concepts create, what they defuse, rearrange or disrupt in Burkinabe society. How do the shifts, boundaries and similarities between traditional religion and tradition affect the practices and discourses of the actors? To what extent do they re-appropriate "tradition"? And how does this make sense in the current context of Burkina Faso?
Burkina Faso with its different religious and cultural traditions seems to be a good field of investigation to reflect on diversity, encounters and interactions, although studies on the current developments of traditional religions in Burkina Faso are rare. Moreover, today, high expectations are placed in traditional religions to tackle violent Islamic radicalism; yet it is not very clear what their contribution may well be. The aim is to examine the diverse perspectives of actors in specific social, political and historical processes on tradition and traditional religions. How do these people reinvest traditional religion at a moment in Burkina Faso's history marked by a rise in terrorism, major political uncertainties and worrying tensions between different population groups?
Five work packages (WP) will make it possible to carry out this project: the analysis of the discourses of political and intellectual elites, of the performing arts, of local rulers, of "ordinary" practices such as naming and, finally, of the re-articulation of tradition and its patrimonialization in rural areas. It is supported by a French team (IRD-Imaf) and a German team (University of Mainz, Ifeas), who together supervise Master's students in Burkina Faso and collaborate with Burkinabe artists, both during the field research phases and in developing the methodology and valorizing the research.

Project coordinator

Madame Alice Degorce (Institut de recherche pour le développement)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

IRD Institut de recherche pour le développement
Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz

Help of the ANR 382,649 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: August 2021 - 36 Months

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