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X-Posted from H-NET List for African Expressive Culture <H-AFRARTS@H-NET.MSU.EDU> From: Michael Conner <MWCONNER1@COMCAST.NET> ________ REPLY 1 From: Anitra Nettleton <Anitra.Nettleton@wits.ac.za> Date: May 3, 2010 With regard to this promenade (and one could climb into that notion) I am still truly astounded, goodness knows why, by the capacity of 'lovers' of art forms made in various parts of the world excluding "the west", to ignore all our objections to words like 'tribal' which is a thinly disguised form of 'primitive'. How does one provide a "tribal art experience" - in whose terms? Haven't they read Errington, Kasfir, Price, Shiner, Steiner and others? Are we always to be struggling against the romanticization of an Africa of the past as a primitive, tribal eden? Ask my second and third year students (at an African University) how it feels to have one's past always denigrated in this way. It seems that still the west had polities, everyone else had tribes? ________ REPLY 2 From: Shannen Hill <email@example.com> Date: May 3, 2010 Anitra is spot on. Also, how is that Robert Mapplethorpe "solidified the international tribal art market?" He was not known for being a collector of said art. I ask those who posted this announcement to reconsider their language and their framing. ________ REPLY 3 From: Kip McKesson <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 3, 2010 Having been a tribal art dealer for twenty years it still amazes me how academics allow semantics to skew their thoughts. I have lived in Africa for more than 12 years and everyone I know refers to the tribe that they originate from. Nobody takes offense to the use of tribal. Only University professors with too much time. And it seems that East Lansing rules the roost. I have had students, sent by professors, enquire as to why my neon sign said "tribal art". This was in the 80's. I tried to be PC and change it to "traditional art" and nobody knew what it meant. Relax! The peoples of Africa identify themselves as part of a tribe, and wear the emblem with pride. ________ REPLY 4 From: peffer <email@example.com> Date: May 3, 2010 Of interest: For those looking for even more entangled problematic coeval terms, next week while the "Tribal" wares are on view uptown, "Contemptorary African Art" is being auctioned off downtown, at Phillips dePury. Info may be found here: http://www.phillipsdepury.com/auctions.aspx?sn=NY000310 ________ REPLY 5 From: dele jegede <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 3, 2010 I've got a simple question for our very good tribalist, the one whose main qualification of residency in Africa for 12 years has allowed him to meet with "everyone" who is proud to proclaim their tribality. My question to Kip McKesson is: in what language did you ask them? Many thanks. dele jegede, Ph.D. Professor & Chair, Department of Art Miami University, Oxford ________ REPLY 6 From: Kip McKesson <email@example.com> Date: May 4, 2010 I have a simple answer, too. Kiswahili. Asante sana! I also never said I met with everyone. I said that everyone who I met was never ashamed of their tribal origins. Seems that only in the Western world these things have such heavy meaning. Ciao (Kwa heri) Kip ________ REPLY 7 From: jeremy coote <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 4, 2010 On all my visits to the USA I have been impressed by the way in which all the natives I have met identify with the state they are from. That is why I always refer to American art as 'statal'. (This makes my life much easier as I do not then need to distinguish between Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, etc. etc. It's all statal to me.) Jeremy Coote Joint Head of Collections Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford ________ REPLY 8 From: Anitra Nettleton <Anitra.Nettleton@wits.ac.za> Date: May 5, 2010 I wonder where in east or central Africa (since he was speaking KiSwahili) Mr McKesson was? And When? And to whom was he speaking? We have just been through terrible manifestations of Xenophobia in South Africa, which point to the results of tribal differentiations, and the horrors of genocide in East Africa also suggest that the 'tribal' is a problem. It's invention as a form of political category in colonial times is well-documented. Tribe is a political term, it politicizes languages and ethnicities. If McKesson cannot see this as a problem, then there is little hope for his being able to see that western glorification of a supposedly primal 'tribality' of anybody's "art" is a problem. ________ REPLY 9 From: Kip McKesson <email@example.com> Date: May 5, 2010 Well, I guess my comments really livened up the forum here. But the whole issue is a difficult one. What does the academic world want to see used to denote the type of art that the normal people in the world identify as "tribal"? That is, non-Christian fetishes, masks, figures, etc., created by indigenous peoples around the world? I participate in many of the top exhibitions around the country, i.e. the Asian and Tribal Art Show in Los Angeles, the International Tribal Art and Textile Shows in San Francisco and New York, and the Historic Indian and World Tribal Art Show in Santa Fe. These venues host many of the top dealers from around the world, selling art from different cultures around the world. As I said before, I tried to be politically correct in the 80's and switched all my literature to read "Traditional Art from Around the World" and it only led to confusion on the part of the collectors. I understand the problems of tribalism in Africa. I am married to a Kenyan who endured total fear during the clashes following the Kenyan elections. But I seriously doubt that the differences between the different groups of indigenous peoples will change with semantics. So, what would make all of you academic complainers happy? What is the proper designation, politically correct, that you wish to see us use? One that can be placed on a business card that collectors can remember? To me "tribal" and "primitive" have completely different meanings. What did the Luba Kingdom call its group of people before colonial times? I consider myself a fairly politically enlightened citizen and would be happy to be more politically correct. But Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, etc., etc. designate, to me, the style of art. What do you call this style we, so stupidly it seems, designate "tribal"? Kip McKesson (from the Michigan Tribe) ________ REPLY 10 From: Kathleen Wininger <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 5, 2010 Greetings! I feel I must weigh in here; some of this may be regional. In East Africa, especially Kenya, I was absolutely ridiculed for avoiding the word tribe at the university and outside it. The explanation offered was that everyone was from a tribe and I was from the "white tribe." I have avoided using the word in southern or western africa and in the US. ________ REPLY 11 From: Ana Edwards <email@example.com> Date: May 5, 2010 The problem I recognize in this discussion is the subjective experience of power relationships. Those Western-oriented (in particular) scholars or critics who tend to defend and/or take for granted the validity of the terms "tribe" "tribal" will often reference those Africans or other indigenous (and typically formerly colonized) people who have provided them assurances such as "that's ok" or "we don't mind" or "it's no big deal" or even "yes, you can use the term 'tribal'" and "I use the term as well", without pressing the issue further. For example, 1) in what language the conversation took place (as mentioned before), how fluent both conversants were and what historical subtleties are encased in the definitions being discussed. Put simply, how do you know that what was said means what you think it meant? 2) What short or long-term benefit is gained (or problem averted) by giving such assurances - in other words what line of defense is being used to continue to protect a former colonized people from those who represent the culture that formerly colonized them (physically, intellectually, economically, culturally...); and may be seen as continuing to colonize, dominate or exploit in some way. BECAUSE the legacies of those power relationships often remain in play, people will decide for themselves how to convey information to someone who is gathering that information for their own purposes. Scholars of all fields bear the responsibility of never disregarding the long history of misuse and exploitation of others for their professional gain, unless they want to risk imposing their theoretical subjectivity in a less than useful way. And of course it is critical to respect that that history of misuse is probably understood quite well by the people being queried. (The WPA oral histories of formerly enslaved black people in the southern US specifically applies here, when the interviews were conducted by white interviewers and the responses interpreted by white scholars - in particular answers that included statements like "life was better in slavery times"...) The fact that Europeans are now applying the terms "tribe" and "tribal" to their own people seems to me to be an attempt to communicate with each other that their colonial uses of these terms might have been inappropriate in retrospect, but by applying them to their own peoples' histories they can ameliorate their impact. The hope being that the connotations can be spread so far and so thin, shared so "equally" that they become meaningless or at least powerless. The problem then becomes that powerlessness means comfort with their use and that comfort can be misinterpreted by uninformed or new scholars as available for use - terms of parity or equity in the language of historians and archaeologists that have no need for explanation or context. Who gets to determine the appropriateness or even accuracy of these terms? To me the answer will always be subjective. And rightly so. Ana Edwards Chair, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project Richmond VA ________ REPLY 12 From: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: May 5, 2010 Thanks to Anitra for having opened this "can of warms" and for for her timely response to something that would be merely trivial to Kip McKesson, but culturally very significant to the dignity of indigenous peoples concerned, the integrity of their cultures and peace on our planet. This debate raises pertinent questions for all of us involved in the practice, promotion, marketing and scholarship of African visual culture, as to how much we really understand Africans, African culture and material culture in particular. I also tend to agree with Jegede that language has a lot to do with the issues. But yet the implications are as complex as languages can be. Does for example the Kiswahili word for ethnic group (Kabila) have the same connotations as tribe in English?? In this context Kip's response tonight to Jegede's question is very interesting indeed. And it is in response to this and particularly for Kip's benefit and information that I feel particularly compelled to write. The word tribe is an unfortunate term that we have inherited from colonial enterprise of the 19th century. It is also essentially rooted in and burdened with 19th-Century Eugenics and Euro-centric cultural baggage according to which Africans were classified as genetically and or racially inferior to Europeans to the extent that in extreme cases we were referred to not only as barely more sophisticated than animals but very devil-like. In South Africa we were called Kaffirs. African social political systems were also classified as uncivilized in comparison to their European counterparts. It is unfortunate that even up to this day the term is still current, its life faithfully maintained in the media by none other than teachers, professors, journalists, scholars, publishers, priests etc despite being bloated with racist, supremacist bigotry. In part the responsibility for its currency falls into our hands. It is also a challenge especially for us Africans who have not taken this responsibility to expunge it's usage from our communication systems on the continent, but have in the process and by default or collusion accepted the labels it carries often without question and in turn used it to denigrate fellow Africans we consider inferior or backward according to the same bigoted colonial chauvinistic yard stick. Indeed our African politicians have been very busy, especially of late destroying Africa's ethnic diversity under the guise of eradicating "tribalism" while in fact they are promoting their own power-political ends. No wonder Kip McKesson thinks we accept this tribal label in effect are happy to "bear our cross to the top of Calvary and to nail ourselves on to it." Like Kip, racists in South Africa and the USA were happy to often assert how happy Africans were to be subservient to Europeans and with apartheid and segregation respectively. This thinking unfortunately comes from the same mentality that considers women happy to be dominated or to be beaten when they purportedly "misbehave" and that they are most feminine when kept subservient to men. Kip's jibe at professors having too much time is most telling about the mentality of Tribal Art dealers, professional history and the cultural baggage they carry. Back in the 19th century Kip would probably have traded in indigenous African, Pacific, Asian orAmerican human body parts destined for the colonial museums of Europe and USA. These people had no qualms about initiating, participating in or going on shooting sprees to procure grisly commodities for European or American clients. According to Eugenics Africans were tribal, uncivilized, satanic, too low in the classification of brain power and intelligence, more like animals, and therefore like animals they lived at the mercy of superior races such as Europeans considered themselves at that time. In those days Tribal Art dealers also had willing African collaborators and partners, just like Kip does today (in the "tribal art" trade) and had ways of justifying their actions and thinking. Among the tribal artifacts that were traded at that time and which will certainly be on show in New York include African sacred material on par with the Catholic tabernacle, the chalice or image of Christ. They would have found their way into this market with the collaboration of indigenous Africans, some of them very well "educated" and graduates of prestigious universities. However these artefacts will be treated with the same disrespect, desecration and chauvinism with which Kip pronounces that Africans are happy to carry our demeaning labels despite the indignities implied. Does it mean, according to Kip, that Anitra is just a spoil-sport? Or, does it mean that we Africans are so stupid that we really do not care? Does his obvious confusion between meanings of ethnicity and tribes thus show his poor education? The word to describe this type of cultural impoverishment in my language would be "mukopi," the closest terms to this in English would be lumpen, uncultured, uncouth. For Kip's information, I am a Muganda and proud member of the Baganda nation and people. The Baganda are not a tribe!!! We have been a nation for nearly a millennium and during this time, have maintained a distinct language as well as a consistent cultural, social, political, civic, economic presenceon this planet. Many so-called tribes have similarly existed on this planet forjust as long or longer!! We are still struggling for our self-determination and cultural and social economic integrity just like we have done since colonisation. I am not happy to carry the tribal label imposed on me by Western "bakopi" (plural for "mukopi") unconscious, ignorant people or Eurocentric chauvinists stuck in 19th century pseudo-scientific-Ugenics mentality. This Tribal art charade is about trade! It is not about promoting African culture. This is Kip McKesson's world that he is defending. In Kip's world, trade justifies everything and everything is justified by trade. As long as we are trading and making money everything is okay. This is also the mentality that has landed us with the recent financial melt down. This mentality has polluted and kept polluting our environment, up setting delicate ecosystems and threatening our very existence. By the same token the so called tribes of the world are an endangered species from those of Kip's ilk that think we are expendable because of our perceived inferior position in the world's trading hierarchy (the Western global civilization/social economicsystem) and because they think that our continued existence and values threaten the continued indiscriminate exploitation, plunder and senseless destruction of our planetary resources in the name of development and economic growth. It is assumed that it is okay for us to succumb to any treatment meted to us, and to be called anything, to be classified in anyway traders wish because we are too stupid to care or we deserve it because of our perceived subordinate cultural/social/economic position or simply global trade. Contrary to Kip, I do not know of any professors who do research, teach, supervise grad students, publish, or in this particular case read e-flux or H-netmail and have time to raise important issues such as this but have "too much time" on their hands!! This is an insult from someone who does not really care about the consequences of their actions or words, or knows very little about the position, role and work of professors the likes of Anitra Nettleton who work very hard to nurture students that pass through their hands so that in the end they may become conscious human beings and critical thinkers who will promote a culture of community, peace and well-being on this planet. Unfortunately we often go through life carrying misconceptions, misclassifications, untruths and half-truths all embedded in our languages, belief systems, modes of behaviour and interpersonal relations, as part of our heritage and pass these on from generation to generation consciously orunconsciously. It is this negative baggage that often fans or is used to justify conflict. In light of this it is the responsibility of those that consider themselves civilized, educated, aware etc to get rid of whatever aspects of behaviour, language, thinking, acting, etc., that contain hidden messages that would subvert our understanding of others, be hurtful to them or upset the delicate harmony, peaceful co-existence of nations or the rich cultural diversity of our planet. In the end all of us that are involved in culture disciplines and in particular Visual Culture have the responsibilityto be vigilant. For at the bottom of all this, we are about fostering understanding, respect, dignity, balance, order, prosperity, well-being and happiness for all without exception. I would like to suggest that the most enduring art and artists are often about promoting the sisterhood/brotherhood of everything on this planet. As traders in cultural materials we market and distribute culture that is inevitably embedded in these artefacts. In the process of trading we also modify, influence (positively or negatively), subvert and promote this culture. As professors of research methodology we instill in our students the importance of being precise in the use of terms. We caution our students about the negative or positive baggage various terms carry and how this should inform our analysis and interpretation of culture aside from being careful that we are aware of the implications and consequences for the way we use established terminology or any that we invent. This debate raises other questions closely related to this issue, questions of cultural "cannibalism,"predatory research into and collection of African cultural material, questions that lurk in the shadows of our African cultural-studies disciplines and sit squarely at the root of this "tribal art charade" in New York. There is an unfortunate historical connotation, correlation and relationship of this to the whole concept of and terminology "African Art" of which we need to be vigilant and which we need to revisit and re-examine again and again. We need to often ask ourselves whether we promote or subvert African visual culture in the process of collection, documentation, research, publication or saving it from the likes of Kip McKesson. Most importantly we need to consistently ask those not-often asked questions. What is African Art, what does the phrase really mean, who determines what qualifies and doesn't and what do the indigenous African owners/producers (not just the Westernised scholars or acculturatedAfricans) think???? What is African art in Africa, on African soil, is ittribal or ethnographic? What is art within African societies, within indigenous African cultural contexts, within African thinking, conceptualisation, and indigenous African arts practice??? Whose opinion, description, classification, or analysis matters, where and when and which one in the end carries the day??? What cultural baggage do we bring to our practice as scholars, curators, traders or "art" lovers? What cultural baggage are we passing on to the next generation to carry??? In the end, in the midst and context of this debate where are we (African or not) and our curatorship, trade, scholarship, thinking and or practice of African culture etc., located?? How is this expressed in our language or verbal and visual expression??? Kivubiro, Tabawebbula (PhD) Department of Painting & Art History Makerere University, Kampala Uganda ________ REPLY 13 From: Shannen Hill <email@example.com> Date: May 6, 2010 In response to Mr. McKesson's query, I'd say the place to begin is with respectful language, both in dialogue with peers (such as in this forum) and in the naming of art that he sells. So let's see if I can be of help in some way here. He has asked what term might best be used on a business card. I can see how this is a conundrum. For collectors, words like "African" or "Oceanic" might do fine, and I'd think many academics would put aside their difficulties with these designations since they are preferable in many ways to "tribal" and "primitive." Then, in conversation with collectors, he might mention that the person who made the object under discussion was not necessary "anonymous" or "unknown," but was instead "unrecorded" by the agent who first collected it. The collector might ask what tribe the work comes from, or even offer up their own knowledge on this subject. This would be a point at which one could discuss the difficulties of naming in this light. Through these conversations he would be doing everyone a service --- artists, "Africans," collectors, academics, dealers --- everyone. I do not mean to insult in any way, so please keep this in mind with what follows. Given that I do what I do, I sometimes hear the term "politically correct" in conversation with others. I reply that the term underscores intellectual laziness. Mr. McKesson is obviously quite committed to this dialogue and not lazy in this sense, but the phrase has come to be a bit of a backhanded dismissal of legitimate concerns that are quite real. I'd be happy to continue this discussion off list. Shannen Hill, University of Maryland ________ REPLY 14 From: Kip McKesson <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 6, 2010 Well, I find the characterization of me being a racist and the type who would have traded in African body parts a bit of a stretch! And very insulting. Thankfully, I studied under more enlightened professors. My last post asked for alternatives and help for education as to how to broach and define this subject. I guess some would have me describe it as "national art". Unfortunately, though I am sure very smart and educated, there are members of this forum that have a problem looking past their considerable egos. And lack of a sense of humor. So I will respectfully agree to disagree. As long as there is little awareness to saving these items for future generations I will continue to do so without guilt. I feel that it is unfair to compare my ideas with those of the racists and chauvinists of South Africa. To those who do, there is little I can say. Hopefully these injustices will not be perpetuated on into further generations. I feel very comfortable with my feelings of humanity. To me, an angry attitude does not denote peace and promote well being on the planet. But, we are confronted with a choice. The oppressed often become the oppressors in the name of defending their world... "the lady doth protest too much methinks". Pole sana. ________ REPLY 15 From: Laurel Aguilar <email@example.com> Date: May 7, 2010 African art is as diverse as any other regional art in the world. Having taught last semester African Art History in an African University I would suggest the terminology follow that of any other art history discourse: Contemporary African Art (periods of time, place, artistic movements and schools, specific artists, specific media) Art from Africa: regions, ethnicities, historical periods of time Specific contexts of African art that would have comprised 'tribal' that include specific ethnicities and explanations that make it clear the arts are from a region(s) a Kingdom(s), historical frame, a particular collection/collector/provenance, historical tradition that may still be contemporary, etc. Groupings of arts by subject areas: ritual and religious arts (not fetish), performance, burial, divination and/or healing, political art/power and rule; arts from a particualr country, art produced by a ethnicity or several ethnicities, art for a specific purpose, art medium such as pottery and clay, masks, figures, gold or bronze casting, and any combination of things For an exhibition of 'tribal' art that is widespread in regions, ethnicities and historical time: Art from Africa: 16th to 20th century West and Central Africa, as an example. There are many ways to avoid 'tribal' and move arts from Africa into the same discourse and terminology as European, Asian, Latin American, Northwest Canadian Coast, etc. .. ________ REPLY 16 From: John Picton <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 7, 2010 I suppose in some ways it's quite a shock to come across a discussion of the word 'tribe' in the context of the study of African art, when, even long before Vansina's 1984 Art History in Africa, (and let's not forget the pioneering work of Bravmann in Open Frontiers) most of us (apart from William Fagg) had abandoned the word 'tribe' as a category redolent of the anthropology of the colonial period, a category at best completely useless in helping us understand the social and historical circumstances pertaining to any work of art. Ethnicity is, of course, one among many forms of social identity; by which I mean one among many ways in which a person reckons with the question: who am I the same as/different from? If I were to list, for myself, the principles according to which I might answer that question, ethnicity might be one of perhaps thirty such principles; and no one principle could be said to dominate all the others. The construction and negotiation of identity-and-difference is a complex and sophisticated business; and that is true not just for me but for everyone I know, whether in Europe, the Americas of Africa. Of course, we know that there have been and still are circumstances in which political or commercial regimes pick on one principle as a reason for persecution: the Shoah in Nazi Germany is a case in point; so too is slavery in all its forms, and the racism that is the continuing legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. The fact that there are parts of Africa where people take 'tribal' identities for granted is a feedback into the perceptions of those communities of the ignorance and misperception embedded within colonial administration; and some times, as in Rwanda, 'tribal' difference can have brutal and tragic consequences. When I turn to art in Africa, while for certain kinds of visual practice one still uses ethnic labels, this is no more than a convenience shorthand, as it were, and I cannot think of a single work of art made by and African artist in which the artist's ethnicity is the fundamental determining factor in why a work of art is the way it is. One looks rather to the institutions of education, workshop and studio practice, of patronage, trade, criticism and display; and that this is so applies as much to developments since the 1850s (photography, printmaking, public sculpture, etc) as to the inheritance of a most distant past (masquerade, the arts of chiefly nobility, dress and textiles, etc). To develop Laurel Aguilar's response to this matter, as she correctly suggests, we need different paradigms to explain different aspects, forms, developments and histories. There is no one-size-fits-all means of understanding visual practice, whether in Africa or anywhere else in the world. John Picton ________ REPLY 17 From: Kimberly Blake <email@example.com> Date: May 7, 2010 I have been reading these posts with interest and astonishment. It seems to me that the comments from Ms. Aguilar finally put the whole discussion in proper perspective. Although I am not a historian of African art (my background is in African Linguistics), my husband and I own and art gallery in Miami, Florida and collect African art personally. The terminology proposed my Ms. Aguilar is exactly how we would present the work of African artists in our exhibitions. We believe in providing a forum for the expression of ideas by artists in our gallery. Limiting the tremendously vast scope of works from the African continent or from African artists by labeling it all "tribal", or anything else, would be a misinterpretation, in my opinion. Ms. Aguilar is spot on in her approach and really has informed the discussion. Kimberly Blake Wolfgang Roth & Partners, Fine Art ________ REPLY 18 From: M F-P <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 7, 2010 As a professor, scholar, and lover of the arts of Africa, I too have tried diligently to discourage the use of "tribal" to describe either the people or the material culture from the African continent. I have taken special care to explain to my students (most of whom take my introductory classes and are by no means majors or graduate students) that this word is problematic for all of the reasons previously discussed in this forum. Interestingly, once I relocated to the Northwest Coast I found I had trouble convincing them of the word's offensive and primitivist connotations because of the common practice of describing the native people of this region, and their art (although "First Nations" does show up as an alternative), as "tribal". The words "native" and "Indian" as nouns for the indigenous populations of this region are also used among "whites" and "non-whites" alike, seemingly without protest from those described (in my 4 year experience). So, perhaps Mr. McKesson's experiences in Kenya, where apparently Kenyans do not mind the word, can be taken as an example of how perspectives on this word, and its usage as problematic, can shift depending on circumstances. For my part, I will continue to explain (to anyone within earshot) my own objections to using the word "tribal" in an African context, and hoping that, as scholars, dealers, collectors, students, etc., we at least do what we can to change perceptions based (sub-consciously or not) on racist ideologies, all the while allowing that others may have their own opinions. Monique Fowler-Paul Kerman Western Washington University ________ REPLY 19 From: Davis, Karen <email@example.com> Date: May 7, 2010 In teaching humanities, I spend quite a bit of class time analyzing one textbook author's usages, blissfully absent from 30 chapters, but suddenly sprouting up, like lawn mushrooms after a summer rain, in the chapter on Africa: tribe, tribal, fetish, totem, native, and Black (as in the "fetishes and other tribal arts of the Black Africans," when of course there is no mention of the "fetishes and other tribal arts of the White Europeans." While simply using these same terms for ethnicities/societies, languages, arts, and liturgical items of Europe does not erase their connotations when used in African contexts, doing so in class clarifies for students that these terms were invented or re-invented during African colonization (as was "cannibal" in the Caribbean region) as psycho-linguistic support for exploitative projects of European colonial ventures. Our students, primarily African Americans, understand from their own experiences how words (thug, bitch, ho, welfare mom, urban, bad hair) can be used to throw a (thin, to them) veil over racist agendas. They quickly grasp that if "tribal" and "native" were such important critical terms, they would be used throughout this textbook, or throughout that New York Times article on endangered languages, and not crop up only when the topic is Africa. They are no more necessary than using "girl" for women but not "boy" for men, or "boy" for African American men, but not for European American men. This is certainly not a newly born awareness. I recall conversations on the imperialist implications of these terms among professors and graduate students in anthropology in the late 1960s. (Marshall Sahlins was granted a pass for "tribe" only in context of his work, as it was used to critically define a specific model of social organization, although we argued he might have chosen or coined a different term, to better effect). Surely those conversations preceded my own educational era; they now seem primed to last well beyond my span on earth. ________ REPLY 20 From: pido <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: May 8, 2010 Slaves and dogs are named by their masters. Free men name themselves. All except East Africans, who seem destined to be named by foreign scholars and subjects of Kings whose political capital is based in part on the abuse of Northeners who they like to call 'primitive.' I see that we fail to distinguish adequately among contexts - geographical, scholarly, political, economic and maybe others. Dealers are subject to market forces that include the use of vocabulary which, no matter how inaccurate or repugnant to the dealer himself, is what makes his daily bread. The suggestion that dealers try gently to educate their customers is an excellent one. It may be less the vocabulary than the mindset that is important. We do this in dealing with foreign students and tourists here by gently correcting them and explaining why. East Africa is not Nigeria or South Africa or anywhere else. It is wrong to insist that people whose lives and experience are based here adopt the understanding and vocabulary of other peoples in other places. Excusing Kenyans by saying they apparently don't mind using the word 'tribe' is like patting an errant child on the head. Language is far more complicated and dynamic than that. Regardless of its use in a particular context, one aspect of the word tribe is that it is still a technical term that means a group of people who recognize their connection to one another through descent from a common ancestor or ancestors, biological or adoptive or mythological. The Old Testament tells us of the formation of 12 tribes through the 12 sons of Jacob who God renamed Israel. We know that Omogusii actually existed and probably also his six sons who fathered the six subtribes that include the many clans of the Abagusii. There is nothing that any colonial power could have done to construct this after the fact. May Abagusii kindly be allowed to call themselves a tribe? May others who have a similar history do the same, please? Kenyans are a Bible toting and quoting lot on whom the Biblical precedent has not been wasted. One of the reasons that Xtians here feel so close to their religion is that the stories in the Bible are about their own lives. In Kiswahili, 'kabila' (qabileh in Arabic) designates a group larger than a family, lineage or clan but smaller than a nation. Since Kiswahili and English are now tightly interdigitated, 'kabila' is commonly used in conversations in either or both languages. Waswahili, who had city states long before the arrival of colonial powers, still recognize their own subgroups as tribes though they no longer constitute a state. The Pastoral Maasai deliberately organized themselves centuries ago into geo-political Sections crosscut by clans that are the highest level of kin based affiliation among the Maasai. The Sections are never called tribes though even Maasai often confuse them with clans. Pastoral Maasai call themselves and are called by others a 'tribe' because that is the easiest way to describe themselves in a single generally understood word, there being no other alternative that I know of in common English usage. Neither 'Ethnic group' nor 'community' do the trick. 'Nation' might work but that could raise ire at the State level. We don't normally hear tourists asking for 'tribal' Maasai objects. They usually ask for 'real' or 'authentic' Maasai things for which the Maasai use the word 'original' to indicate that they were made by a Maasai for personal use and are, therefore 'good.' One of the Maasai's neighbors recognizes common descent from ancestors named Gikuyu and Mumbi. Like Abagusii they name their clans after the children of this apparently mythological couple. In recent decades and, more intensively in the last few years. They have caused havoc in Kenya because of their very cohesive, tribalistically motivated sense of entitlement to full control. On a more practical and proximate level, I would like to pose a couple of questions to readers of this list. First, when my next door neighbor, who is a descendant of Gikuyu and Mumbi, comes over my fence, chops down all the trees in my backyard and then complains to my landlord who shares those ancestors, that he doesn't want to have a Luo (Acholi) neighbor - what vocabulary and what concepts should I mobilize in my own effort to analyze the situation? My landlord was shocked to discover that I thought the neighbor was targeting me for being white when he was really objecting to my husband. Second, when a group of descendants of Gikuyu and Mumbi stops a bus on the road, takes off all the passengers and then beheads all those who are not descended from Gikuyu and Mumbi, what analytical concepts and vocabulary should Kenyans and the International Community operationalize in explaining such an event? "Tribe, tribalism, tribalist and tribalistic" work for me and everybody else here. "Tribal" is used only by tourists and foreign students to describe their tattoos. Of course it may be different on Madison Avenue. I hope somebody will go to the Promenade and do some research on presentation and mindsets in connection with vocabulary. Finally, in the wake of some of the postings in this string, may we note that there is an ongoing trade in body parts here? These are purportedly used in AIDS cures and witchcraft in the Congo and points west. While the harvesters are locals, many of the traders are Nigerian - and of course we ALL know what goes on in Nigeria because we ALL watch Nollywood movies!! Donna Pido Nairobi H-AfrArts H-Net Network for African Expressive Culture E -Mail: H-AFRARTS@H-NET.MSU.EDU http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~artsweb/