Papa Sow

Colonial and Postcolonial Constructions of Maritime Equipments (Lighting, Beaconing, and lighthouses) along the Atlantic Senegalese Ports 

It is towards 1821 that appeared for the first time, in the French colonial archives a note which details the wish from the French Colonial Administration to set up a project of maritime equipments (lighting, beaconing) along the coasts of Senegal. The year 1861 marked the beginning of the installations of these equipments: Mbour, Sine Salum and Casamance were the first coastal areas (roadsteads or wharves) targeted; afterward Gorée, Dakar and Saint-Louis followed. This part of the history of the ports, coasts and maritime equipments destined to the Atlantic areas of Senegal, its evolution in the time and the production of knowledge around this theme are very little studied or almost unknown. This paper comes from documentary research from the Senegalese National Archives in which it is described, between 1821 and 1920 (during a century), the justification of the colonial policy of setting up maritime equipments along the Senegalese coasts. At first, the paper will show the main reasons for the early introduction of this maritime material in the country; then, it will focus on the “economy of lighting and beaconing” (the beacon boats, lighting entrepreneurs, suppliers, trading houses, etc.) and its evolution over time. Finally, from a socio-cultural and postcolonial perspective, the paper will focus on the current Senegalese national policy of lighthouses and beacons established since 1977. Archives, narratives, literature review, and actor-network theory will be used to analyze how the knowledge production from ocean equipments ("machine theory") has influenced the geostrategy, maritime economy and culture-technology along the Senegalese coast.