1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Technology and Society (2000 - 2009)

The Challenge of NICTs and Their Role in Urban Change: The Case of Touba (Draft)

In this paper, Cheikh Guèye evaluates the impact of new information and communication technologies (NICTs) on urban change. Guèye believes that technology transfer is currently facilitated by various factors (greater movement of populations, development of trade, promotion and diversification of networks, etc.) Africa is not outside this movement, he says, but is increasingly a part of the networks and is using its identity and the means at its disposal to make this new meeting space its own.

For the author, the Mourides are a group emblematic of the current process of change. They are a social and religious movement that has developed into an international migrant phenomenon, active within the world economy. The group has become transnational and moved beyond its original sphere, while strengthening its local base through the urbanization of Touba, which is its unifying place, its place of return and belonging. Thus, globalization does not have to mean loss of a sense of place and identity.

NICTs are not only a means of integrating the Mourides with the rest of the country, but provide important leverage for internationalizing the group and strengthening its identity. Thus, the impact of NICTs represents a good filter through which to view social change in Senegal and to grasp the shape of cultural phenomena that can be both endogenous and universalist, like the Mouride brotherhood.

Two Mouride groups play a special role in this process, according to Guèye. The first are the merchants who use these technologies to enhance their activities (particularly the telephone, the computer and the Internet). The other are the Mouride taalibes in the dahiras, for whom NICTs make it possible to set their aims at the transnational and global levels. The appropriation of NICTs by the Mourides contributes to making Touba a point of reference from all points of view, and a pole whose force of attraction undeniably reaches the international level. What gives the Mourides their strength is their capacity to adapt to the new constraints of globalization while preserving their umbilical link with the holy city of Touba.

This is the draft English translation of one of Gueye’s contributions to the volume Le Sénégal à l'heure de l'information: Technologies et société (edited by Momar-Coumba Diop, Editions Karthala, Paris and UNRISD, Geneva, 2002).

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