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Rettová, Alena (2015) 'A solitary war? Genre, community and philosophy in Swahili culture.' Journal of African Cultural Studies, 28 (2). pp. 209-224.

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This article explores individual and collective forms of knowledge production and their relevance for African philosophy, where collective beliefs are dubbed ‘ethnophilosophy’ and decried as a surrender of critical reason. This article uses evidence from two case studies: the free-verse poetry that devils use to communicate with humans in William Mkufya’s Swahili novel Ziraili na Zirani and the dialogic poetry called ngonjera, a new genre invented by Mathias Mnyampala for the propaganda of ujamaa (Tanzanian socialism). Genre plays a major role in the expression of philosophical ideas, and this article studies how these two specific genres configure philosophical reflection and how they determine the philosophical content of texts. Swahili free-verse poetry has had a philosophical slant since its inception in the poetry of poets such as Euphrase Kezilahabi. Thanks to this intellectual propensity, the genre easily accommodates the philosophical ideas with which Mkufya loads his poems, asking about the nature of reality or about the being of God. Mnyampala’s invention of ngonjera takes place against the backdrop of traditions of negotiation and conflict resolution through speech (palaver) and through poetry (malumbano ya ushairi or kujibizana). The reference to these traditions gives ngonjera the appearance both of being rooted in ‘traditional culture’ and of partaking of processes of democratic achievement of consensus.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Published Online 24 June 2015 - From forthcoming special issue: Afrophone Philosophy
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa
ISSN: 13696815
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2015 10:20

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