U dhashay — Ku dhashay: Genealogical and Territorial Discourse in Somali History
Genealogical reckoning has always been a prominent aspect of Somali social organisation long characterised as a ‘segmentary' lineage-based political system. Beyond this ethnographic foundation there was also a widely-held view that the Somali nation—despite the inherent ‘republicanism' of the segmentary system—did at least possess a distinctive and inclusive ‘national' genealogy. However for a decade now—following the collapse of the unified state of Somalia—authors have been re-examining the basic assumptions of the Somali nation. True to the traditions of the segmentary system they describe, a younger generation of scholars has challenged their elders and these youthful revisionists have uncovered the ethnic and even ‘racial' complexity of the Somali state and questioned the dominant national genealogical discourses. This article asks that the dominant genealogical framework of Somali studies be taken back to its local contexts, and that descent by lineage (or indeed race) should be seen as only one part of the repertoire of political legitimacy in Somalia.
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