Global Security and Religious Pluralism

Critically examine global security discourse and see how Senegal's fascinating mix of religions presents a model for global peace from a decolonial perspective.

At a Glance





Language of Study

Wolof, French

Courses taught in

English, French


Jan 31 – May 13

Online Component

Jan 31 – Feb 3

On Site Component

Feb 5 – May 4

Online Component

May 9 – May 13

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Peace & Justice Icon

Geopolitics & Power

Geopolitics & Power Icon


Why study global security in Senegal?

At a time when terrorism is often identified as religious extremism, a time when a “clash of civilizations” mentality often prevails. Senegal provides a model of religious, ethnic, and social coexistence in which radicalization is rare and people of different traditions work in accord with one another. Explore how Senegalese society has cultivated peaceful coexistence in religiously plural settings—coexistence that is rooted in indigenous philosophies that permeate the cultural landscape to this day. Visit towns where indigenous practitioners, Catholics, and Muslims live in harmony; eco-villages that fight for sustainability; security institutions that vie for economic resilience; and diverse religious institutions that cooperate with local populations for spiritual betterment. Travel to Morocco to see how its Sufi orders differ from Senegal’s and how they shape Moroccan society and politics.


  • Discuss program themes with peers from Senegal and neighboring African countries.
  • Explore international and regional security institutions.
  • Visit Senegal's rural areas and experience daily life during a rural homestay.
  • Examine political relations between Sufi orders in Morocco and Senegal.




The New Orleans of Senegal

You’ll visit Saint-Louis, the Creole city known for its colonial architecture on the northwest coast of Senegal. Located on N’Dar Island in the Senegal River, you’ll find it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Senegal. The Ponte de Faidherbe is the city’s most significant landmark. Designed by Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), the bridge’s metal arches link Saint Louis to the mainland. Frequently compared to New Orleans, its urban cultural scene is particularly diverse situated at the crossroads of Africa, Europe, the Americas and Muslim World.

Sufism in Kaolack

You’ll visit this sacred center of mystical Islam, founded by Cheikh Ibrahim Niasse, whose order currently reaches up to 300,000,000 followers all over the world. The heart of this order is located in Medina Baye, (a neighborhood in Kaolack) sustained by the Great Mosque of Medina Baye and the African American Islamic Institute. You will have the opportunity to meet and discuss with prominent leaders of the Niassene order about the concepts of fayda (divine flood) and tarbiya (mystical training), central to this Sufi brotherhood, as well as their history and politics.

Peaceful co-existence on Shell Island

Visit the towns of Joal and Fadiouth, which are connected by a foot bridge. Joal is the birthplace of the first president of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor. Is also a stronghold of religious coexistence, where indigenous practitioners interact with Christians and Muslims. Fadiouth, also known as Shell Island, has one of the few Christian-Muslim cemeteries in Senegal. Here, you’ll learn about the Sereer, the most important ethnic group in the region, which has rich indigenous traditions.

Gorée Island Slave Trade

You will visit the iconic landmark of the transatlantic slave trade—a site that carries heavy historical footprints. You’ll learn about the island from a local tour guide and enter the slave house museum, which served as a stopover for some 20 million slaves from Africa being brought to the Caribbean and the U.S. You’ll explore the complexity of power during colonial times and come away with an understanding of Senegalese traders who left their mark on its history.

Sufism in Morocco

Travel to Morocco to learn about the Sufi sect of Islam. Here, you’ll investigate relations between religion and politics and compare it with the way Senegal’s Sufi orders have shaped religious and political relations in their country. During this excursion, you will experience diverse Moroccan cultures, local cuisine, architecture, and varying geographical landscapes.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Evaluate the notion of global security in Senegal from a broadly construed perspective that includes political, social, economic, religious, environmental, and food security. 
  • Analyze the dominant Eurocentric discourses on global security through a local decolonial paradigm. 
  • Analyze the notion of religious pluralism and adaptations through the three major religions present in Senegal: Islam, Christianity, and endogenous religious traditions. 
  • Describe the engagement and impact of each religious tradition on global security in Senegal by engaging a decolonial lens. 
  • Relate major historical events in Senegal to the country’s engagement with global security and religious pluralism. 
  • Enhance communicative proficiency in French or Wolof. 
  • Synthesize the learning acquired on the program in an Independent Study Project or internship experience paper. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Indigenous religion as a foundation of philosophy
  • Religious tolerance in Senegal
  • The relationship between religion and state
  • Local movements of resistance and empowerment
  • Regional security policies, programs, and projects
  • International and regional institutions for peace

Senegal: Colonialism, the State and Society

Senegal: Colonialism, the State and Society – syllabus
(AFRS3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar introduces students to Senegalese society and critically examines the forces that are shaping its evolution through two broad questions: What are the historical foundations of contemporary Senegalese society and state? How has Senegal’s encounter with the world affected the socio-political particularities of its contemporary cultures? We will first trace the historical evolution of the Senegalese state from the so called “medieval empires” to the present with a strong focus on its political, social, and economic realities. We will subsequently explore the major shifts in Senegalese identities via changing meanings of class and socio-political roles. We will then draw upon students’ engagement with Senegalese life to explore the emerging cultural forms in Senegalese peoples’ understandings of their presents and their futures. The seminar is taught largely as a field-based course. Site visits, field trips, and excursions to various urban and rural locations provide the empirical data and insights with which students engage and analyze key research questions. Readings and videos are deliberately assigned to provoke discussion and critical reflection.

Re-thinking Global Security: Politics and Religious Pluralism in Senegal

Re-thinking Global Security: Politics and Religious Pluralism in Senegal – syllabus
(INTS3000 / 3 credits)

The discussion on Global Security, alongside the discussion on Development, has been traditionally dominated by Western hegemonic discourse aimed at the Global South, particularly through the discipline of International Relations, influenced by policies of international governmental bodies as well as NGOs. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, this discourse has refocused on the role of interreligious conflict, religious extremism, and terrorism in places such as the Middle East and Africa. This seminar intends to challenge the very basis of such discourse, particularly in Africa, that leads to what Mudimbe calls the invention of Africa. This invention involves universalizing, Western-centric interpretations of regional situations, which are much more complex and local. The readings, lectures, discussions, and site activities for this course will not only challenge the interpretative status quo of International Relations, but will also offer new, decolonial interpretations of religious beliefs and practices, a more vigorous understanding of religious pluralism, and a localized debate on the center/periphery from the perspective of the Global South.

To prepare for the discussion of decolonizing Global Security, we will examine the role of religion in Africa. More specifically, we will focus on the three major belief systems that sustain the diverse religious practices in Senegal: Indigenous Religion/s, Islam, and Christianity from the perspective of local beliefs, practices, and knowledge. Most importantly, we will examine adaptations of religions within their regional context, their ecumenical potential, as well as their pursuit of a higher, spiritual knowledge. How does a more comprehensive and interrelated understanding of religious institutions in Senegal, including their beliefs, practices, and knowledge challenge the Western-centric notions of Global Security in the discipline of International Relations? How does a more localized knowledge of Islam change the discourse on religious extremism and terrorism? How does a deeper engagement of the notions of the center and the periphery, inform the concept of Development from the perspective of the Global South?

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

Drawing upon the myriad of in-country experiences, cultural encounters, conversations in homestays, and community observations, the Research Methods and Ethics course is primarily designed as a field based course, complemented by classroom lectures, assigned readings and discussions facilitated by the academic director. The course relies on SIT’s in-country professional network and academic and socio-cultural resources to structure assignments and field activities through which students practice and hone their skills in gathering, managing, and analyzing primary data.

A series of structured field activities and assignments provide the material for class discussion, complemented by scheduled lectures and assigned readings. Students learn qualitative approaches of gathering, managing, and analyzing data from primary sources. The course puts particular emphasis upon the culturally appropriate ways of building rapport, initiating purposeful dialogue, forming constructive relationships with organizations and individuals, recording and analyzing primary data, and writing a scholarly academic report, in ways that students should find beneficial to successful completion of independent study or internship projects. The course also pays particular attention to US higher education ethical considerations that guide primary data collection, and how these could be translated within the local cultural context of Senegal.

Along these lines, a core focus for this course is the development of a feasible research or internship proposal, including the ethical considerations necessary in the research process, topic development, selection and execution of methodologies, final write up, and reciprocity or civic engagement issues, while sensitizing students to power asymmetries and the politics of subjectivity in field research.

Language Course Options

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Intensive French Language Study
Intensive French Language Study – syllabus
(FREN1003-3503 / 3 credits)

The course enhances students’ French oral and writing proficiency and introduces them to the variety of Senegal’s rural and urban linguistic cultures. The course takes advantage of students’ immersion in Senegalese society. Students spend 30 hours on formal classroom instruction and another 30 hours on field activities supporting language acquisition such as sports, song and dance, shopping, and cooking. Proficiency assessment includes oral and written tests and students’ use of French during the program. Class level assignment is assessed via an oral proficiency test. A midterm assessment reviews progress in order to reassign class level. An end-of-semester assessment determines students’ final proficiency level.


Intensive Wolof Language Study
Intensive Wolof Language Study – syllabus 
(WOLO1003-3503 / 3 credits)

The intensive Wolof language course is primarily intended to enhance students’ Wolof oral and writing proficiency, and to introduce students to the variety of Senegal’s rural and urban cultures. The course is deliberately designed to take full advantage of students’ immersion in Senegalese society. Students spend 24 hours on formal classroom instruction and another 30 hours on field activities that are intended to support language acquisition. Field assignments in recreational activities such as sports, song and dance, shopping, and cooking enhance students’ language acquisition in interesting and engaging ways, build new vocabulary and develop inter-cultural competence. Students practice learned vocabulary and fluency using simple texts, moving to more complex texts as they gradually develop their language abilities. Language proficiency assessment will include in-class oral and written tests and student’s use of Wolof throughout the course of the program, in everyday life and field assignments. Student’s language abilities are assessed through an oral proficiency test at the beginning of the semester to determine language class level assignment. A second midterm assessment reviews progress in order to reassign class level. A third assessment at the end of the semester determines students’ final language proficiency level.

Independent Study Project or Internship

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The four-week Independent Study Project (ISP), scheduled in the final portion of the program, provides students with a unique opportunity to study in-depth a key aspect of global security or religious pluralism in Senegal. The ISP draws upon knowledge and skills gained from the thematic, language, and Research Methods and Ethics seminars. At this point, students will have worked with the academic director and various other in-country experts to develop their ISP proposals and to schedule interviews and arrange translators (if required) and other logistics essential to completing the ISP. They will also have developed the competence to act in culturally appropriate ways and find resources in Senegal needed for ISP completion. The ISP allows students to practice and hone their primary data gathering skills and various other skills learned in the Research Methods and Ethics seminar, such as navigating unfamiliar cultural norms, building rapport, and navigating local bureaucracies. Further, students practice and hone their skills in gathering and analyzing data from primary sources, managing this data, and making a coherent argument in a scholarly manner.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • How the Sufi branch of Islam relates to the Senegalese government
  • Religious co-existence in neighborhoods
  • Museums as de/colonial spaces in Senegal
  • Empowerment through women’s giving circles
  • How outward appearances represent religious practice
  • Senegal’s successful approach to radicalization among youth
  • Muslim women’s engagement with feminism
  • Fluidity of ethnic identities in Senegal

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

Several regional and multilateral bodies are based in Senegal that engage with issues of global security, religion, as well as opportunities to understand the country from a decolonial perspective. It is in this sense that Senegal provides an excellent setting, within Africa, in which to explore security, peace, and decoloniality and their support mechanisms, from an African perspective. SIT will use its extensive network to place students in national and international organizations working in the broad area of governance, election monitoring and peace in Dakar, education, health, development, and beyond. In addition, students may petition SIT for approval of internship placements that they find on their own initiative. In either case, SIT’s academic director must approve of the student’s internship duties, location and placements.

Ultimately, each student takes responsibility for making optimal use of resources available at the organization and will be expected to be proactive in engaging with local experts to achieve internship objectives. Weekly two-hour reflection and assessment meetings are held with the academic director or internship coordinator to review the progress of the internship and learning associated with the internship experience. Students complete an internship and submit a paper that describes, assesses and analyzes their learning in regard to the theoretical underpinnings, complexity, challenges, and benefits to the community of the work of their internship organization. The internship paper also outlines the tasks that the students completed at the international development internship, reporting relationships, challenges encountered and how the student overcame them.

Possible internships:

  • Working on issues of social justice in local NGOs
  • Supporting women’s rights through local and international organizations
  • Working on health reform projects in a local hospital
  • Developing strategies for food security in an eco-village network
  • Advocating for children’s rights
  • Volunteering in an orphanage
  • Assisting in a bilingual high school



Live with a Senegalese family in Dakar starting after orientation and continuing until the end of the semester. The homestay will allow you to experience Senegalese daily life and special cultural events in Dakar. You will share numerous activities with your host families, such as going to the local market, shops, or the beach. You may also attend sporting events or concerts with your host family and be invited to naming and marriages ceremonies and Muslim holiday celebrations.

Most homestay families are middle class by local standards and represent different professions, including nurses, business owners and teachers. Some hosts are within walking distance to the SIT program center; others may be 20-30 minutes away by bus.

Rural Homestay

You will participate in a one week-long rural homestay within a few hours’ drive of the capital. Participating villages rotate each year and include Popenguine, BambeySereer, Toubacouta, and Ndem. You will be hosted with local families or hostels and will work on a project related to the program theme. In the past, students have created documentary films on religious pluralism in Popenguine with the guidance of famed Senegalese director Moussa Sene Absa, participated in breaking ground on an eco-village project led by the community of Bambey Sereer, and contributed to the reforestation of mangroves with local women organizers in Nema Ba, near Toubacouta.

Career Paths

Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:

  • Recording engineer at Black Viking Studios, New York, NY

  • Marketing and events manager at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, FL

  • Agriculture and land program officer at Millennium Challenge Corporation, Washington, DC

  • Curriculum and training manager for Partners in Health, Boston, MA

  • Social studies teacher at Guangzhou Foreign Language School, Guangzhou, China

Faculty & Staff

Senegal: Global Security and Religious Pluralism

Monika Brodnicka, PhD
Academic Director
Ousman A. Pame, PhD
French Instructor
Sidy Gueye
Wolof Instructor

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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