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Prophets and Profits: Gendered and Generational Visions of Wealth and Value in Senegalese Murid Households1

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This paper analyzes the disjuncture between the projected prosperity of male migrant traders of the Murid Sufi order and the actual ability of these traders to maintain the social relations that engender wealth. I focus on an exchange of bridewealth that ultimately resulted in a collapsed marriage to show how households are made and unmade across time and space by diasporic practices. I aim to show how two decades of neoliberal reform in Senegal have had unintended consequences for the prospects of social production. The movement of male traders into transnational trade networks to shore up a stagnant local economy and to reproduce the social and moral order has unanticipated consequences for women's authority. Women claim male earnings not only to run the household, but also to finance the family ceremonies-baptisms, marriages and funerals-and the social payments that accompany these occasions. Women also seek commodities obtained through male trade to exchange in life-cycle rituals. For women, foreign commodities, rather than undermining the production of blood ties, are the very means of making those ties a social fact. In Murid families, the rejuvenation of domestic rituals through access to male earnings abroad sets in motion the production of women-headed households and ultimately of lineages.

Affiliations: 1: University of Chicago


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