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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Oral Tradition, Periodization, and Political Systems: Some East African Comparisons
Author:Saberwal, Satish C.
Periodical:Canadian Journal of African Studies
Geographic terms:Kenya
Subjects:oral history
traditional polities
Education and Oral Traditions
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Politics and Government
Abstract:Thanks to Vansina, Oliver, Cunnison, and others, the value of the oral tradition as a source of the history of non-literate peoples is beyond question. This value is generally judged to be greatest in areas where complex state organizations antedate contact with the Europeans. About the quality of oral traditions in non-state societies Oliver is pessimistic. On this issue Vansina offers a more hopeful view. This paper compares the quality of the oral tradition for two societies of East Africa, who are both acephalous and have age-set organisation, the Pastoral Masai of Kenya and Tanganyika, as described in Alan H. Jacobs' unpublished dissertation (Oxford 1965) and the Embu of Central Kenya, as recorded in the A.'s own unpublished dissertation (Ann Arbor 1966). The comparison shows that the Masai traditions are much deeper, richer, and more reliable than those of the Embu. To explain this difference the author analyses the structural features of the two societies. He explores the wider implications of this analysis. Notes.