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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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The topic of tribalism is the object of the Deelley poetry debate. Almost all the poets treat the subject in explicit form, i.e., specifically using the word qabiil (tribe, clan, tribal system) or its derivative qabyaalad (tribalism). Often the two terms, tribalism and tribal system are confused. However, the context helps to define, in each particular case, which one it is. The tribal theme (tribalism and the tribal system) is often addressed by a poet more than once in different sections of a single poem. Forming the central issue of the Deelley poetry discourse, tribalism is also addressed in a less explicit form, using allusions and metaphors that are part of the technique of poetry. The discourse of the poets on this topic is generally one of condemnation and contempt for the tribal social system, its ideological format and its practical application: tribalism. Amongst the poets, those who do not see tribalism as a source of social unrest are few. When it comes to the tribal issue and tribalism, there are differences of opinion between the poets which are sometimes conflicting and antagonistic. The critical judgment on tribalism is usually negative. Criticism of tribalism also includes the tribal system. Two phenomena, tribalism and tribal system, which are conceptually distinguishable because the one refers to ideological practice, while the other refers to the social structure, are, however, linguistically often confused by the Somali oral poets who consider them inseparable, the...

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