Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 November 2009
How has the Jola society changed in the last decade? Do the patterns and practices described in the previous sections still characterize Jola society at the present time? Have the Jola remained outside the larger currents that have transformed the political economy of Senegal. According to Pélissier:
Outside influences, whether from other African societies or from Europe, have only recently penetrated Basse Casamance, and a monetary economy, with its usual retinue of upheavals, did not infiltrate this coastal zone until a few decades ago, despite it being frequented by western navigators for the last five centuries.(1966: 673–674).
This is something of an overstatement. As we have seen, the Jola were in contact with European and Manding traders at least since the beginning of the sixteenth century. They also participated, as victims and profiteers, in the trade for slaves during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After the 1860s, they even migrated seasonally to the Gambia in search of palm produce and red-rubber. And Jola women were involved in wage-labor, unloading ships in Ziguinchor, as early as the 1910s.
Nevertheless, Pélissier is quite correct in that certain important developments taking place further north during the past century took a long time to reach Lower Casamance. Thus, for example, by the 1850s, Islam and groundnuts had been adopted by many rural Wolof farmers surrounding Cap-Vert; by the 1920s they were just beginning to be adopted by the Jola of Lower Casamance. Dakar and St. Louis were connected by rail in 1885; Dakar and Ziguinchor were connected by the Transgambian highway in 1952.