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Discourse about Values in Yoruba Culture
The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Discourse about Values in Yoruba Culture
Reveals everyday language as the key to understanding morals and ethics in Yoruba culture.
"This contrasts with any suggestion that in Yoruba or, more generally, African society, moral thinking manifests nothing much more than a supine acquiescence in long established communal values.... Hallen renders a great service to African philosophy." -- Kwasi Wiredu
In Yoruba culture, morality and moral values are intimately linked to aesthetics. The purest expression of beauty, at least for human beings, is to possess good moral character. But how is moral character judged? How do actions, and especially words, reveal good moral character in a culture that is still significantly based on oral tradition? In this original and intimate look at Yoruba culture, Barry Hallen asks the Yoruba onisegun -- the wisest and most accomplished herbalists or traditional healers, individuals justly reputed to be well versed in Yoruba thought and expression -- what it means to be good and beautiful. Posed as an outsider wanting to gain understanding of how to speak Yoruba correctly, Hallen engages the onisegun and has them explain the subtleties and intricacies of Yoruba language use and the philosophy behind particular word choices. Their instructions reveal a striking and profound depiction of Yoruba aesthetic and ethical thought. The detailed interpretations of everyday language that Hallen supplies challenge prevailing Western views that African thought is nothing more than acquiescence to long-established religious or communal values. The philosophy of ordinary language reveals that moral reflection is indeed individual and that evaluations of action and character take place on the basis of clearly and logically delineated criteria. With the onisegun as his guides, Hallen identifies the priorities of Yoruba philosophy and culture through everyday expression and shows that there are rational pathways to both truth and beauty.
Barry Hallen has taught philosophy at the Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife) in Nigeria. He is a Fellow at the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College. He is coauthor (with J. Olubi Sodipo) of Knowledge, Belief, and Witchcraft: Analytic Experiments in African Philosophy.
Ordinary Language and African Philosophy
Me, My Self, and My Destiny
The Good and the Bad
Rationality, Individuality, Secularity, and the Proverbial
Appendix of Yoruba-Language Quotations
Glossary of Yoruba Terms
How Dialogue Constructs Moral Value in Post-Socialist Kilimanjaro
"All traders are thieves, especially women traders," people often assured social anthropologist Tuulikki Pietilä during her field work in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in the mid-1990s. Equally common were stories about businessmen who had "bought a spirit" for their enrichment. Pietilä places these and similar comments in the context of the liberalization of the Tanzanian economy that began in the 1980s, when many men and women found themselves newly enmeshed in the burgeoning market economy. Even as emerging private markets strengthened the position of enterprising people, economic resources did not automatically lead to heightened social position. Instead, social recognition remained tied to a complex cultural negotiation through stories and gossip in markets, bars, and neighborhoods.
With its rich ethnographic detail, Gossip, Markets, and Gender shows how gossip and the responses to it form an ongoing dialogue through which the moral reputations of trading women and businessmen, and cultural ideas about moral value and gender, are constructed and rethought. By combining a sociolinguistic study of talk, storytelling, and conversation with analysis of gender, the political economy of trading, and the moral economy of personhood, Pietilä reveals a new perspective on the globalization of the market economy and its meaning and impact on the local level.
Winner, Aidoo-Snyder Prize, African Studies Association Women’s Caucus
A History of Luo and Bantu migrations to North Mara, (Tanzania) 1850-1950
This book is a compilation of oral histories about the movement of Luo and some Bantu-speaking peoples. It includes histories of many clans or ethnic groups, and how drought, warfare, disease, and competition over pastoral resources in western Kenya forced them to look for a land that they could call their own. Highly entertaining, the stories cross over from pre-colonial to post-colonial eras, with tales of fooling the colonial officers, winning battles and producing miracles. Although warriors and chiefs play a critical part in the stories so too do unlikely actors such as women, prophets, and common farmers. As one of the elders put it, ìWithout history you are like wild animalsÖ you need to know where you came from and who you are.î People with kinship connections to the ethnic groups represented here will delight in the references to places, people, kin groups and events. Residents of western Kenya will be able to trace some of their genealogies to North Mara and vice versa. Historians and anthropologists will find in this book a rich primary source for their own research. Those interested in cultural change will find this a fascinating case of Luo assimilation: events chronicled in this book are still underway and observable in communities today. Producing the text in both Swahili and English ensures that local people will have access to these histories for their own learning and on-going discussions about the past.
Conflict, Conciliation, and Caste in Mande
Griots at War
Conflict, Conciliation, and Caste in Mande
Barbara G. Hoffman
An extraordinary account of conflict and peacemaking among griots.
"... a compelling study of how social identities and relationships are constructed and reconstructed through action, specifically through speech.... The book succeeds marvelously in conveying the voice of the people who are, in every sense of the word, its subject." -- Robert Launay
In 1985, while she was an apprentice griot or jelimuso, Barbara G. Hoffman saw and recorded a remarkable event in the small town of Kita, Mali. For four days, thousands of griots from all parts of the Mande world gathered to talk, sing, and make music in celebration of the opening of the new Hall of Griots and the installation of the recently named Head Griot. This unprecedented assembly also marked the end of a deadly two-year conflict fought with griot weapons -- words, reputations, and sorcery. Hoffman captures griots making speeches, singing songs of praise, and dancing in honor of their restored unity. Her discerning interpretations of the speeches not only explore the art of griot oratory but show how the use of history, metaphor, religion, proverbs, and praise can mend a community torn apart by war. The speeches, often marked by a keen edge, also reveal what it means to be a griot in a casted society and to demand that other castes recognize and respect this unique identity. The griot's formidable linguistic abilities come to the fore as they negotiate, reestablish, and assert their cultural power. This exceptional book, including generous extracts from the griots' speeches in Mande and in translation, offers surprising and important insights into the multiple meanings of Mande culture, caste, and identity.
Barbara G. Hoffman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Cleveland State University. She is author of many essays on Mande culture and producer of ethnographic videos on East and West African cultures. She is known to the Mande griot community as Jeli Jeneba Jabate.
Prologue: An Invitation to War
Power and Paradox: Griots and Mande Social Organization
In the Hands of Speech: Mande Discourse
A History of Fadenya: Interpretations of the Kita Griot War
Making Boundaries: When Griots Speak before Nobles
Breaking Boundaries: When Nobles Speak before Griots
The Healer Who Is Ill Must Swallow His Own Saliva: When Griots Speak to Griots
Caste, Mande Style
Epilogue: A Wound Cannot Heal on Pus
Oil, Politics, and Economic Change in Indonesia and Nigeria
Growing Apart is an important and distinguished contribution to the literature on the political economy of development. Indonesia and Nigeria have long presented one of the most natural opportunities for comparative study. Peter Lewis, one of America's best scholars of Nigeria, has produced the definitive treatment of their divergent development paths. In the process, he tells us much theoretically about when, why, and how political institutions shape economic growth. —Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution "Growing Apart is a careful and sophisticated analysis of the political factors that have shaped the economic fortunes of Indonesia and Nigeria. Both scholars and policymakers will benefit from this book's valuable insights." —Michael L. Ross, Associate Professor of Political Science, Chair of International Development Studies, UCLA "Lewis presents an extraordinarily well-documented comparative case study of two countries with a great deal in common, and yet with remarkably different postcolonial histories. His approach is a welcome departure from currently fashionable attempts to explain development using large, multi-country databases packed with often dubious measures of various aspects of 'governance.'" —Ross H. McLeod, Editor, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies "This is a highly readable and important book. Peter Lewis provides us with both a compelling institutionalist analysis of economic development performance and a very insightful comparative account of the political economies of two highly complex developing countries, Nigeria and Indonesia. His well-informed account generates interesting findings by focusing on the ability of leaders in both countries to make credible commitments to the private sector and assemble pro-growth coalitions. This kind of cross-regional political economy is often advocated in the profession but actually quite rare because it is so hard to do well. Lewis's book will set the standard for a long time." —Nicolas van de Walle, John S. Knight Professor of International Studies, Cornell University Peter M. Lewis is Associate Professor and Director of the African Studies Program, Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.
The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, with populations in Nigeria, Niger, and Ghana. Their long history of city-states and Islamic caliphates, their complex trading economies, and their cultural traditions have attracted the attention of historians, political economists, linguists, and anthropologists. The large body of scholarship on Hausa society, however, has assumed the subordination of women to men.
Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century refutes the notion that Hausa women are pawns in a patriarchal Muslim society. The contributors, all of whom have done field research in Hausaland, explore the ways Hausa women have balanced the demands of Islamic expectations and Western choices as their society moved from a precolonial system through British colonial administration to inclusion in the modern Nigerian nation. This volume examines the roles of a wide variety of women, from wives and workers to political activists and mythical figures, and it emphasizes that women have been educators and spiritual leaders in Hausa society since precolonial times. From royalty to slaves and concubines, in traditional Hausa cities and in newer towns, from the urban poor to the newly educated elite, the "invisible women" whose lives are documented here demonstrate that standard accounts of Hausa society must be revised.
Scholars of Hausa and neighboring West African societies will find in this collection a wealth of new material and a model of how research on women can be integrated with general accounts of Hausa social, religious, political, and economic life. For students and scholars looking at gender and women's roles cross-culturally, this volume provides an invaluable African perspective.
Personal Narratives about the 2007 Post-Election Violence in Kenya
The narratives collected by Twaweza Communications in this volume tell yet another side of the story about the violence that engulfed Kenya towards the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008. The narratives are part of a Daraja Initiative involving media monitoring, reflections and documentation of the traumatic post-election violence period often associated with the contested presidential results of 2007. The goal of the project is to contribute to the protection of constitutional rights of all Kenyans and to the development of a just and democratic country. Because violent conflicts constitute ruptures and continuities and are often preceded by tensions over the uncomfortable co-existence of political, economic, social and cultural systems and relations of power as well as what is perceived as valuable, mobilisation for violence is driven by narratives of the legality and correctness of action such that notions of history, justice and memory are functions of narrative construction, power and authority. Narratives of violent conflict, such as happened in Kenya, are not absolute: they are contested, contradictory and incomplete. But they must be told so that the multiple voices from the citizens are heard.
African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, & Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948
The History of an Idea from the Age of Exploration to the Age of AIDS