Dervish Oral Poetry in Somalia: A Study in Semiotic Chora

Erin Elizabeth Meehan, Salve Regina University


Lines of verse sometimes live in the shadows of societies, cherished for gracefully bending ears with melodic imagery. Yet, Somali poetry defiantly lived outside shadows for centuries. While pastoral communities customarily use oration for historiography and storytelling, purposeful and complex oral poetry coursed through the veins of each Somali, creating a silent, formless unity. This research pinpoints the inseparable existence of Somali people from Islam, clan identity, and poetic language by analyzing poetic action from the anti-colonial Dervish Movement of 1899-1920. Using psychoanalyst and philosopher Julia Kristeva’s scholarship on poetic action, Somali poetry is used to attempt a pursuit of semiotic chora— the place where meaning is made. This research serves as an urgent acknowledgement and dialogue that Somali poetry holds keys to a reimagined polis.

Subject Area

Philosophy|African Studies|African literature|Modern history|Language|Religion

Recommended Citation

Meehan, Erin Elizabeth, "Dervish Oral Poetry in Somalia: A Study in Semiotic Chora" (2021). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI28713484.

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