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    Adejunmobi, Moradewun 2013. Performance, Politics and Activism. p. 17.

  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: December 2009

1 - Anthropology and text


“Where there is no text, there is no object of study, and no object of thought either.”

(Bakhtin 1986: 103).

Encounter with texts

A text is a tissue of words. The term comes from the Latin texere, meaning literally to weave, join together, plait or braid; and therefore, to construct, fabricate, build or compose (Greetham 1999: 26). That is what this book is about: the universal human work of weaving or fabricating with words. People put words together to make a mark, to leave a trace. They do this orally as well as in writing. Though many people think of “text” as referring exclusively to written words, writing is not what confers textuality. Rather, what does is the quality of being joined together and given a recognisable existence as a form. The oral rhapsodes of ancient Greece were “song-stitchers” who sewed together floating formulas to construct a remarkable, attention-worthy form. This material image suggests that people thought of their compositions not as evanescent breath, but as something with a presence: something that could be apprehended and evaluated. In some situations the oral text may even be seen as the only thing that outlasts death and time, and testifies to the reality of past achievements:

What would remain of great exploits if we did not have our musicians?

With their rich memories and vivid songs they keep them alive for ever.

What great deed would survive without those songs?

Who would ever remember Sunjata Keita's extraordinary courage

if it were not for Jeli Jakuma, his talented musician and faithful companion?


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The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics
  • Online ISBN: 9780511619656
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