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Somali Oral Poetry and the Failed She-Camel Nation State

A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Deelley Poetry Debate (1979–1980)

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Ali Mumin Ahad

Somali Oral Poetry and the Failed She-Camel Nation State: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Deelley Poetry Debate (1979–1980) examines the most expressive medium in Somali culture and politics, that is, oral poetry, in its ideological and discursive dimension. Oral poetry has a formidable impact on Somali society and its internal dynamics.
Somali Oral Poetry is the first critical discourse analysis of the connection between oral poetry and politics in Somalia. The book brings out contradictions and conflicts between the ways of thinking of a society structured in clans and a rightful claim for nationhood and the state of law. In addition, it highlights the difficulty the society finds in renouncing clan mentality that requires loyalty to the clan rather than to the State.
The present volume illuminates, through the critical analysis of the Deelley poetry debate, the circumstances and issues that preceded the civil war in Somalia. Therefore, the book is of particular interest for its original explanation and understanding of the extraordinary subsequent failure of the State in Somalia.
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CHAPTER ONE: THE HISTORICAL, POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT OF SOMALI ORAL POETRY

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CHAPTER ONE

THE HISTORICAL, POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT OF SOMALI ORAL POETRY

Scholars and political analysts have attempted to understand the reason, or reasons, for the disintegration of what once was indicated as the most homogeneous political entity in the whole of Africa. As Mark Bradbury remarks, the historical origins of the present civil war lie in the defeat of the Somali army in the Ogaden war of 1977 and, with it, the end of pan-Somali unity. “As the Somali war has become more protracted, that sense of unity has dissipated further and Somalia has become more fractured probably than at any other time in its history”.1 In the 1977 war after Somalia’s stunning initial success against Ethiopia, the Cuban and the Soviet Union’s intervention on the side of Ethiopia had severely damaged both Somalia’s military capability and its social cohesion. Among the severe consequences of the war in Ogaden, the 1978 military rebellion against the regime deserves to be mentioned, as well as the exasperated response of the latter against its antagonists. Both of these actions can be seen as part of the process that paves the way to the civil war and to the collapse of the state. The negative effects produced by the concomitance of the state institution’s collapse and civil war are clearly deleterious to the younger generation of Somalis who were not acquainted with the corrosive effects of the clan system on national identity. In particular, the civil war produced...

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