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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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For more than two decades, Somalia has gone through harsh experiences such as the inconsistent occurrence of the civil war, the “tribal” conflict, the logic of the “warlords” and, lastly, the “ideological struggle” between secular and theocratic conception of the State. The latter two cases also come in the midst of “tribal” and clan loyalties which are hard to overcome. Altogether these experiences have negatively affected national cohesion and identity. They have made any attempt of reconstituting the State and reviving the rule of law, impractical. Not only, but over the last five years (2008–2013), according to the Fund for Peace, Somalia has been the prototype of the Failed State, ranking first in the Failed State Index. Though it may be controversial, the Failed State Index enumerates some fundamental dimensions for the rule of law. The deterioration of those dimensions is an indicator for the failure of the state. In other words, the concept of the failed state indicates the inability of a State, mostly in the third world and specifically in Africa, to enjoy self-government producing normal index values regarding issues like security, population pressure, social harmony and balanced development, provision of public services to its citizens, legitimacy of the State through democratic elections and the respect of democratic rules and universal values. All such indicators for Somalia have had negative performances throughout the last quarter century, for that reason, the Somali State can be rightly defined as a failed state. However, the Somali state breakdown...

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