Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 November 2009
This chapter analyzes a process that, for want of a better name, has been called the “Mandingization” of Jola society (Thomas 1958/1959, Pélissier 1966, Linares 1981). In the literature on the Jola, emphasis has been placed on how “traditional” Jola culture has become transformed by the introduction of new norms and values borrowed from the Manding. Pélissier (1966: 799–800) has expressed this point of view in an impressionistic yet insightful way:
The Jola, hard working and after profit, essentially anxious to accumulate rice and to augment their cattle, have borrowed from the Manding, not only their religious conceptions, but also their life-style and their hierarchy of values. These peasants, rustic and concrete, have become, in the image of their models, contemplative and attached to long words. Real wealth is no longer based on material things; their love of work and sense of land have singularly diminished. At the same time, women have assumed in this new society a role comparable to the one occupied by women among the Manding.
The implication of this statement is that the “Mandingized” Jola have wholeheartedly adopted Manding ethnic identity. In crossing ethnic boundaries, the Jola have undergone a systematic shift in the system of meanings through which they construct their identity. And, further, that this shift has brought with it fundamental changes in gender relations.
As Epstein (1978: 100) has ably argued, however, no one ever carries a single identity. Members of all societies simultaneously hold a whole range of identities in the same way as they occupy a number of statuses and play a variety of roles.