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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)


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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Gaarriye, “No Refuge is offered by Tribalism”

Starting with the first poem by Gaarriye, I try to identify who are the interlocutors of the poet, what tone he uses in his discourse and on what occasions. The starting point of the poet’s discourse has to be analysed in relation to its point of conclusion. The existence of a thematic agenda in the discourse is relevant from the point of view of the logical procedure followed by the poet to expound his opinion about the many problems he raises. This leads to the identification of the poet’s discursive strategy and, consequently, an explanation of the reasons that dictate such strategy. Next comes, the analysis of some textual features applied by the poet such as images, allusions and metaphors. In the conclusion, I try to locate possible subtexts and meaningful silences. Both subtexts and silences, if detected, will be interpreted in their context, and explained. The analytical procedures of description, interpretation and explanation provided by Fairclough’s three-dimensional method are used without considering them as separate categories.

The poem first addresses the military in power [D1:16], then several unnamed individuals [D1:26], [D1:52], [D1:93–108] and, finally, those who participate in the poetry debate [D1:117–118]. These three groups are the interlocutors the poet chooses himself. Against the first, he has to fight, because he considers them responsible for the bad situation of the country....

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