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2/21/13 - "Y'en a Marre!" by Sydney Wheeler

Y'en a Marre!

by Sydney Wheeler

Sydney Wheeler received an ARC research grant in Fall 2011 for her project entitled "Enough is Enough:  A Comparative Study of the Impacts of the Social Movement, “y’en a marre,” on Senegalese Youth in Dakar and Fatick".

Sydney Wheeler received an ARC research grant in Fall 2011 for her project entitled "Enough is Enough:  A Comparative Study of the Impacts of the Social Movement, “y’en a marre,” on Senegalese Youth in Dakar and Fatick".

Sydney Wheeler received an ARC research grant in Fall 2011 for her project entitled "Enough is Enough:  A Comparative Study of the Impacts of the Social Movement, “y’en a marre,” on Senegalese Youth in Dakar and Fatick".

“Y’en a marre,” a French term that translates to “enough is enough,” is the slogan that was adopted by a group of musical artists and journalists in Senegal during the presidential campaign leading up to the 2012 election. The artists, much like the Senegalese people, were frustrated with the incumbent administration and its failure to fulfill many of the promises made during the presidential elections in 2000.

After spending the fall semester researching the movement for a term paper, I was frustrated with the lack of diversity in my sources – most were newspaper articles focusing on interviews with the artists themselves, but there was very little information indicating the actual impact of the movement. “Y’en a Marre” reminded me of the “Vote or Die” campaign promoted by Citizen Change in the 2000s, which, being aimed at my age-group, I recall as being rather influential (well-known, at least). Having spent my junior year living and studying in Senegal and growing up surrounded by this type of activity, I was curious to know if “Y’en a Marre” was enjoying success similar to “Vote or Die.” In the spring of 2012, I was able to travel to Senegal to find out the impacts for myself, thanks to a research grant from the Africana Research Center.

As I was finishing up a degree in Geography, I was interested in the geographical aspects of the movement as well as the more general question of its impact. In Senegal I conducted focus groups and individual interviews in two cities, Dakar, the capital, and Fatick, a much smaller town about three hours East of Dakar. I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly my research went once I arrived. Conducting my research around the final election day and working with the help of the West African Research Center (WARC), I found many people who were eager to discuss the current situation and the impact of “Y’en a Marre” on their political views and activity. I worked mainly with people ages 18 – 35, an age group that includes the artists’ fan base and eligible voters. I was pleased to learn that while many of the participants felt that “Y’en a Marre” had, in fact, been quite influential to their political views, there was a wide array of opinions, prompting very dynamic discussion groups.

What really pleased me about conducting this research project was the willingness that other people had in helping me. This was my first real experience being the principal investigator on such a hands-on research project, so before beginning my fieldwork I was actually quite nervous about its completion. I worried that the subject would seem unimportant or uninteresting to potential participants and my advisors. I thought they might see “Y’en a Marre” as simply a pop-culture fad that had been sensationalized by the media. However, I discovered that while some people did find the idea of researching “Y’en a Marre” a bit ridiculous, the movement had been influential enough that many people were fascinated with my project and more than willing to participate or help me complete my research. I even ended up being able to conduct interviews with some of the movement’s founders, through a few unforeseen and very lucky coincidences. Although the artists were not my main focus in this project, their personal input did give me some insight into their goals for the movement. Also, their interest in my project, notably the reactions I had been getting from the participants, showed a visible desire to reach the people of Senegal.

Although I may have been starstruck at times, what impacted me the most during all the fieldwork I did was that at the end of each discussion or interview, my participants took extra time to express their appreciation for my interest in “Y’en a Marre” and for the opportunity to discuss it and other factors impacting the current political situation. Despite my apprehensions, this research project and everyone involved reinforced my interest in the importance and effectiveness of pop-culture-based efforts to reach out to the entire community and affect all parts of society.