Griots at War: Conflict, Conciliation, and Caste in Mande

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Indiana University Press, Jun 8, 2001 - History - 320 pages

Griots at War
Conflict, Conciliation, and Caste in Mande
Barbara G. Hoffman

An extraordinary account of conflict and peacemaking among griots.

"... a compelling study of how social identities and relationships are constructed and reconstructed through action, specifically through speech.... The book succeeds marvelously in conveying the voice of the people who are, in every sense of the word, its subject." -- Robert Launay

In 1985, while she was an apprentice griot or jelimuso, Barbara G. Hoffman saw and recorded a remarkable event in the small town of Kita, Mali. For four days, thousands of griots from all parts of the Mande world gathered to talk, sing, and make music in celebration of the opening of the new Hall of Griots and the installation of the recently named Head Griot. This unprecedented assembly also marked the end of a deadly two-year conflict fought with griot weapons -- words, reputations, and sorcery. Hoffman captures griots making speeches, singing songs of praise, and dancing in honor of their restored unity. Her discerning interpretations of the speeches not only explore the art of griot oratory but show how the use of history, metaphor, religion, proverbs, and praise can mend a community torn apart by war. The speeches, often marked by a keen edge, also reveal what it means to be a griot in a casted society and to demand that other castes recognize and respect this unique identity. The griot's formidable linguistic abilities come to the fore as they negotiate, reestablish, and assert their cultural power. This exceptional book, including generous extracts from the griots' speeches in Mande and in translation, offers surprising and important insights into the multiple meanings of Mande culture, caste, and identity.

Barbara G. Hoffman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Cleveland State University. She is author of many essays on Mande culture and producer of ethnographic videos on East and West African cultures. She is known to the Mande griot community as Jeli Jeneba Jabate.

Contents
Prologue: An Invitation to War
Power and Paradox: Griots and Mande Social Organization
In the Hands of Speech: Mande Discourse
A History of Fadenya: Interpretations of the Kita Griot War
Making Boundaries: When Griots Speak before Nobles
Breaking Boundaries: When Nobles Speak before Griots
The Healer Who Is Ill Must Swallow His Own Saliva: When Griots Speak to Griots
Caste, Mande Style
Epilogue: A Wound Cannot Heal on Pus

 

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Contents

Griots and Mande Social Organization
8
Mande Discourse
18
Interpretations of the Kita Griot War
35
When Griots Speak Before Nobles
53
When Nobles Speak Before Griots
85
When Griots Speak to Griots
165
SEVEN Caste MandeStyle
234
EPILOGUE
252
NOTES
265
BIBLIOGRAPHY
282
INDEX
293
Copyright

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Page 19 - The conditions associated with a particular class of conditions of existence produce hahitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery...
Page 20 - The conditionings associated with a particular class of conditions of existence produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them. Objectively 'regulated
Page 20 - ... generation conflicts oppose not age-classes separated by natural properties, but habitus which have been produced by different modes of generation, that is, by conditions of existence which, in imposing different definitions of the impossible, the possible, and the probable, cause one group to experience as natural or reasonable practices or aspirations which another group finds unthinkable or scandalous, and vice versa.
Page xvi - I would like to formally express my appreciation to a few of those without whom this study might never have seen the light of day...

About the author (2001)

Barbara G. Hoffman is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Cleveland State University. She is author of many essays on Mande culture and producer of ethnographic videos on East and West African cultures. She is known to the Mande griot community as Jeli Jeneba Jabate.

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