Religious diversity and tradition in Burkina Faso: historical and contemporary challenges (DivTradBF)

This project starts from the ambiguity of the notions of tradition and traditional religion, which are often referred to by the same term in local languages of Burkina Faso. Based on this observation, it proposes a pragmatic and epistemological approach to observe the relationship between tradition and local religions through the practices and discourses of artists, intellectuals, young people and local leaders, rather than focusing on pre-defined conceptual units. Far from being relegated to the past, debates about traditional religion and/or tradition in Burkinabe society remain timely. The project focuses on the historical and contemporary challenges of these "traditions" within Burkina Faso's religious diversity. The main question, therefore, concerns the relationships that these concepts create, what they defuse, rearrange or disrupt in Burkinabe society. How do the shifts, boundaries and similarities between traditional religion and tradition affect the practices and discourses of the actors? To what extent do they re-appropriate "tradition"? And how does this make sense in the current context of Burkina Faso?
Burkina Faso with its different religious and cultural traditions seems to be a good field of investigation to reflect on diversity, encounters and interactions, although studies on the current developments of traditional religions in Burkina Faso are rare. Moreover, today, high expectations are placed in traditional religions to tackle violent Islamic radicalism; yet it is not very clear what their contribution may well be. The aim is to examine the diverse perspectives of actors in specific social, political and historical processes on tradition and traditional religions. How do these people reinvest traditional religion at a moment in Burkina Faso's history marked by a rise in terrorism, major political uncertainties and worrying tensions between different population groups?
Five work packages (WP) will make it possible to carry out this project: the analysis of the discourses of political and intellectual elites, of the performing arts, of local rulers, of "ordinary" practices such as naming and, finally, of the re-articulation of tradition and its patrimonialization in rural areas. It is supported by a French team (IRD-Imaf) and a German team (University of Mainz, Ifeas), who together supervise Master's students in Burkina Faso and collaborate with Burkinabe artists, both during the field research phases and in developing the methodology and valorizing the research.

Source: Adrien Bitibaly, Lebenga mai 2017