Senegalese Stagecraft explores the theatrical stage in Senegal as a site of poetic expression, political activism, and community engagement. In their responses to the country’s colonial heritage, as well as through their innovations on the craft of theater‑making, Senegalese performers have created an array of decolonizing stage spaces that have shaped the country’s theater history. Their work has also addressed a global audience, experimenting with international performance practices while proposing new visions of the role of culture and stagecraft in society.
Through a study of the innovative work of Senegalese theater-makers from the 1930s onward, Senegalese Stagecraft explores a wide range of historical contexts and themes, including French colonial education, cultural Pan‑Africanism, West African Sufism, uses of television and mass media, and popular theater and activism. Using a multidisciplinary approach that includes field, archival, and literary methods, Valente‑Quinn offers a fresh look at performance cultures of West Africa and the Global South in a book that will interest students and scholars in African, Francophone, and performance studies.
“This is an outstanding book on a much neglected topic in the literature on performance and popular culture in Africa. To my knowledge, there is no other book on theater in Africa that is so well researched, and which approaches the topic using such a range of perspectives: historical, ethnographic, aesthetic, and performative.” —Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, author of Dance Circles: Movement, Morality and Self-fashioning in Urban Senegal
“Senegalese Stagecraft: Decolonizing Theater-Making in Francophone Africa is a model of seamless interdisciplinary research and methodology and teaches us a tremendous amount about the history of theater in Senegal, the complex and ever-moving connection between theater and politics in that country, the role of culture in French colonization and decolonization, and the transforming nature of the theatrical event itself. Brian Valente-Quinn demonstrates over and over how theater-making in Senegal has never been merely imitative of European models, but has always incorporated Senegalese performance traditions, as well as the ethos of the culture in which the works have been performed. This book is a very valuable addition to studies of African theater in general, to Francophone studies in particular, and to histories and anthropological work on Senegal and on French West Africa.” —Judith Graves Miller, editor of Seven Plays by Koffi Kwahulé: In and Out of Africa
“The book is well researched, well written, and rich with insights on important African theatrical traditions. Brian Valente-Quinn has excavated the fascinating and extinct Bamba Mos Xam performances that helped to expand the Muridiyya Sufi order of Senegal beyond its birthplace. With this book, he has made a seminal contribution and has set a new standard for the study of theater in colonial and post-colonial Africa.” —Fallou Ngom, author of Muslims beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of Ajami and the Muridiyya