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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Seductive Secretiveness: Jeliw as Creators and Creations of Ethnography
Author:Schulz, Dorothea E.ISNI
Periodical:Mande Studies
Geographic term:Mali
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Education and Oral Traditions
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/44078790
Abstract:The 'jeliw' (Bamana, singular 'jeli') or griots in the Mande-speaking world of West Africa belong to the professional category of 'nyamakalaw' (singular 'nyamakala'), together with other artisans. Their function as social mediators invests all people of 'nyamakala' origin with a special status. There is a tendency in ethnographies on the Mande world to attribute great importance to the 'hidden meanings' of 'nyamakala'. Accounts of the position of the 'jeliw' emphasize ideas of the 'secret', the 'obscure' and the 'hidden'. To explain this focus, the research setting in which ethnographic data are produced needs to be considered. On the basis of her research in the area around Kita in Mali, the present author argues that any research among 'jeliw' is characterized by a fierce competition between certain 'jeliw' over researchers as a source of income, and by a market situation in which 'jeliw' present their information as a 'secret', in this way seeking to increase the value of their information. However, this does not mean that griots' claims to hold secret knowledge are merely communicative strategies. In the author's experience, there were secrets that some informants decided to share with her, while others remained untold. Bibliogr., notes, ref.