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Title: Ejok! Experience, Language, and Aesthetico-Moral Expression in Karamoja
Authors: Amoah , Quincy J
Advisors: Hammoudi, Abdellah
Greenhouse, Carol J.
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Aesthetics
Karimojong (Nilotic)
Phenomenology of Language
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This is an ethnographic study of the ethico-moral and conceptual lives of Karimojong – an agro-pastoralist Nilotic speaking community in north-eastern Uganda. It investigates two related puzzles: (1) the perennial anthropological problem of incommensurable pan-Nilotic propositions about being such as “twins are birds;” and (2) the discordance of Karimojong pursuits of flourishing (maata) and goodness (ajokis) versus the imperative to rustle and possess their enemies’ cattle – i.e. probing what ‘good’ (ejok) means when brutal assault and plunder of others is considered by the said raiders and their kin as being virtuous. Using phenomenology of language and conceptual analysis grounded in ethnographic participant observation, the dissertation builds on earlier studies that there is rigorous reckoning of the world by pastoralist Nilotes in the poetry of their songs. However, it diverges by deducing that all Karimojong speech sounds (phonemes) carry semantic and conceptual value, and this finite set of the most basic units of Karimojong language is analogous to ‘categories of understanding.’ This lingual peculiarity should appropriately alter how one translates and evaluates Karimojong descriptions and predications. Also, earlier researchers found the fundamental propositions of Karimojong and other Nilotic interlocutors’ aporetic and inducing ‘symbolic problems’ because they mistakenly assumed the mode of representation and semantic relations between Karimojong concepts were symbolic and not, as made evident by this study, iconic. In view of the principle of iconicity and categories of understanding mapped by speech sounds that, I surmise, frame Karimojong perceptions, expressions, actions, and ritual lives, this analysis contests earlier inferences that Karimojong ethico-moral judgements, especially in relation to raiding, are founded on utility or are justified with amoral expediency. The study critically reassesses the enigmatic Nilotic category of ‘–jok’ by using the postulated analytics to foreground Karimojong practices of fortifying and perpetuating embodied life and argues that for Karimojong interlocutors, and perhaps adjacent pastoralist Nilotes as well, aesthetics is ethics: as succinctly rendered in Karimojong elders’ admonishment to the young, “Dazzle Divinity! (Kinwakḁ Akuj!).”
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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