“Crimes of history” senegalese soccer and the forensics of slavery

Michael Ralph

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In describing the coercive security measures that characterized George W. Bush's 2003 visit to Gorée Island residents complained that, “It was like slavery had returned.” Despite, in his speech, referring to the Transatlantic Slave Trade as a “crime of history” Bush, that day, traded on the spectral capital afforded by captive Senegalese to diminish the legacy of U.S. involvement in this earlier moment of human trafficking by inadvertently re-staging the exchange of bonded Africans. The Gorée fiasco occurred as a result of events set in motion several decades before, but which catalyzed with the tragic September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Immediately afterward, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade created an African coalition “contre le terrorisme,” which the U.S. supported rhetorically and, ultimately, financially. Senegal was perhaps a likely candidate for African leadership in this regard one of the primary architects of Africa's newest neoliberal solution to economic crisis, NEPAD (the New Partnership for African Development), Senegal was also, during the Cold War-era, an outspoken critic of Soviet assistance in African liberation struggles. With its long history of political participation achieved through exceptional status the French colonial government granted Senegal, the country has a long history of republicanism. Still, the widespread idea that Senegal is more democratic than other African nations camouflages a pragmatic politics whose benefits are unclear to a population faced with a weakening currency and unprecedented rates of unemployment. Senegal is, despite this, celebrated as an African success story, both because vendors abroad typify the austere work ethic privileged in meritocratic narratives as the solution to economic distress, and because the government maintains close ties to the United States, especially in the post-9/11 period, since its status as an Islamic country makes it, from the standpoint of the U.S., a valuable ally.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)193-222
    Number of pages30
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Aug 27 2007


    • 11
    • Gorée
    • Island, neoliberalism, postcolonialism, senegal, sports, War on Terror, 9/

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Sociology and Political Science


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