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Title:Griaule's Legacy: Rethinking 'La Parole Claire' in Dogon Studies
Author:Apter, AndrewISNI
Periodical:Cahiers d'études africaines
Geographic term:Mali
Subjects:anthropological research
Development and Technology
History and Exploration
About person:Marcel Griaule (1898-1956)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.4000/etudesafricaines.4866
Abstract:How do we read Marcel Griaule's oeuvre, and assess its ethnographic legacy? What can we gain from his ethnophilosophical project? To answer these questions, the author proposes a critical re-reading of his ethnography of the Dogon (Mali) and a new model of the esoteric knowledge that he purported to reveal. The re-reading is based on two methodological moves that recast Griaule's exegetical project in more socially dynamic terms. The first move, based on the author's Yoruba research in Nigeria, is that esoteric levels of African philosophical systems are actually indeterminate and unstable, and that this capacity to contradict or subvert official or exoteric knowledge renders secret knowledge transformative and thus powerful. The second methodological move shifts the Griaule school's elaborate analysis of Dogon language and symbolism to the level of pragmatic analysis, locating dominant symbols, schemas and ritual speech-genres in their performative contexts. Focusing on speech-acts, locatives, and pronominal shifting, as well as on Dogon ideas about linguistic performance, we can return to the rich Dogon material and derive a dynamic model of critical agency as an enduring legacy of 'la parole claire'. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]