The Rise of a New Senegalese Cultural Philosophy?

by Devin Bryson

Abstract

The Senegalese social movement Y’en a Marre formed in 2011 in response to political stagnation and a lack of key public services. It played a decisive role in defeating incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade in his unconstitutional reelection campaign in 2012. This article considers the movement within the context of postcolonial Senegalese cultural politics. After a brief survey of the recent forms of hip-hop engagement with social issues in other African countries, this study presents Y’en a Marre as articulating a social identity, a collective movement, and a cultural/musical form that are distinct from these other examples of hip-hop activism because they are continuations of a specifically Senegalese hybrid of art and social engagement imagined first by Senghor. Y’en a Marre is a culminating articulation of various trends within post-independence Senegalese culture by bridging the divide between tradition and modernity, between the national and the local, between elders and youth. Y’en a Marre combatted the threat to Senegal’s prized political stability, and has continued to challenge social and political stagnation, by reconfiguring, but also confirming, Senegalese cultural philosophy for a diverse, inclusive audience.

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Devin Bryson is Assistant Professor of Francophone Studies at Illinois College, and his research topics include Francophone African migratory cultures and expressions, minority cultures in France, and the intersections between hip-hop and social activism in Africa.