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  • Parker Shipton

Self-help groups of varied kinds emerge when kinship, territorial governance or other accustomed associations prove unreliable. Interactions that appear helpful and mutual to one party need not always seem so to another. Shaping their character are not just reason and economic or political necessity, but also feelings, some of which humans share with other animals. These feelings often depend, however, on distinctly human symbolic and linguistic contrivances, sometimes of ironic kinds. Mutual help in Africa often spans generations, and by some interpretations both the living and the non-living. Rites and ceremonies can change over time in relation to other ones performed. Whether these conventions strengthen each other, as if by exercise, or substitute for each other in a more hydraulic way as a trade-off is hard to predict or generalize. Input from several sciences, once integrated with humanistic inquiry, may further enrich our understanding.

Des groupes d'entraide de genres variés émergent lorsque la parenté, la gouvernance territoriale ou d'autres associations coutumières s'avèrent peu fiables. Les interactions qui semblent utiles et mutuelles à l'une des parties ne semblent pas nécessairement l’être à une autre. Leur caractère n'est pas façonné que par la raison et la nécessité économique ou politique, mais également par les sentiments, dont certains sont communs aux humains et aux animaux. Ces sentiments dépendent souvent, néanmoins, de dispositifs symboliques et linguistiques distinctement humains, parfois de genres ironiques. L'entraide en Afrique s’étend souvent sur plusieurs générations et, selon certaines interprétations, au vivant et au non-vivant. Les rites et les cérémonies peuvent évoluer au fil du temps par rapport à d'autres qui sont pratiqués. Il est difficile de généraliser ou de prédire si ces conventions se renforcent mutuellement, comme par la pratique, ou se substituent à d'autres de manière plus hydraulique, comme un compromis. Les données multidisciplinaires, une fois intégrées à une pensée humaniste, pourront nous aider à mieux comprendre.

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