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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 TWO: POETRY AND POLITICS: THE IMMEDIATE CONTENT OF THE DEELLEY POETRY DEBATE

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CHAPTER TWO

POETRY AND POLITICS: THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT OF THE DEELLEY POETRY DEBATE

The military regime of 1969 stipulates fighting against tribalism and overwhelming the tribal system as one of its basic principles. By October 1970, on the first anniversary of his taking power, the regime proclaims Somali socialism and proceeds rapidly to build a society and economy modelled on Marxism-Leninism and Soviet experience.1 With a socialist political program of governance that provides a transformation of the social structure, nationalism becomes the ideology of the State. Even despite the break of relations with the Soviet Union in 1977, socialism continues to be the ideological reference to the Somali regime which growing sectors of the society are abandoning in favour of their clan groups. It is in this very political context that the poets of the Deelley poetry debate must carry out the action of awakening a national consciousness shaken by the failure of the 1977 war against Ethiopia. In other words, the poets have to reconcile two ideological systems that are in conflict at this time. I refer to the modern national idea promoted by the regime and its direct antagonist, the primordial ideology of tribal system. Among the aims that the regime proposes in opening a debate between the Somali poets, and guaranteeing them, exceptionally, freedom of opinion, suspending the censorship regime in force, there is probably an opportunistic intention. What the regime is so intensively searching for is to find a way to reinvigorate...

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