Document Type

Honors Project


Thank you to all those who supported me through this process, particularly my advisor Professor Dianna Shandy, and the people who generously shared their stories.

Rachel's paper won the 2013 national Nancy "Penny" Schwartz Undergraduate Essay Award from the Association for Africanist Anthropology (AfAA), of the American Anthropological Association.


The spirit world is alive and real in Senegal. From jealous lover spirits to benevolent protector spirits, these otherworldly beings have a direct impact on the daily lives of many Senegalese. In this study, I focus on the rab spirit. I argue that the spirit world is a tangible reality in Senegal. Focusing on the Lébou ethnic group, I examine the rab cult as one dimension of the spirit world, and look specifically at its relationship to gender. Analysis of the cult establishes the continued significance of this traditional African religion in the face of a globalizing society. Additionally, it reveals how the cult acts as a complementary sphere of social power for women, in contrast to the sphere of male-dominated Islam. In this way, the rab cult fills a space in society that Islam cannot. By examining the disunity between the rab cult and Islam, it is possible to see how these conflicts fundamentally serve to affirm Senegalese identity through the creation of social cohesion.



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