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ERIC Number: ED545946
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 756
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2675-6772-7
Understanding the Lives of Mà'dí Men and Women through the Names They Give Their Children
Shoemaker, Jack C.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Southern Methodist University
This study treats Mà'dí naming patterns, a system of names which developed in a specific socio-religious and political environment that practiced patrilocal residence and relied primarily on farming for subsistence. Most Mà'dí names are social commentary names, recalling some event or circumstance parents experienced around the time a child was born. After reviewing the literature on naming, this study examines the geographical, physical and social context in which names are situated. It also gives an overview of the the linguistic rules which govern the shape that names can take, the aesthetics of Mà'dí vernacular names, and the rules of linguistic politeness and social mores on avoiding direct confrontation which constrain content names can carry, and transparency with which they are permitted to communicate them. These constraints are situated in the acephalic, clan based principle of social organization, and the religious idealogy of the Mà'dí. The primary metaphor through which Mà'dí referred to the corrosive effects of bitterness and jealousy was poison. Instead of airing their bitter feelings or complaints directly, Mà'dí voiced their experiences of these social dynamics through lament songs, dances, diatribes and the names they gave their children. Every time a child's name was called, the parties involved heard the complaints or sentiments they voiced. This allowed the offending parties to hear complaints against them, or how their actions had affected others, through indirect means, which gave them space and dignity to change or make amends on their own. If change was not forthcoming, the elders, who had also heard the names, and had asked the name giver to explain them, called the clan together to sit and resolve the issues the names voiced. This usually resulted in an agreeable resolution after everyone had aired their feelings and released any bitterness or resentment they held against other people. Thereafter, the name reminded people that the problem had been resolved and should not be brought up again. The name also warned the general population not to commit such acts against each other. Colonial policies of indirect rule disrupted traditional clan structures, such as forced displacement, mandatory growing of cash-crops, outmigration to work sites, the growing importance of earning money as a means of subsistence, and rampant alcoholism, have eroded both the authority of clan elders and the functionality of commentary names. In the absence of responsible elders, names which respond to these ruptures complained of the effects of cultural distortion, refuted accusations, answered criticism, or attempted to silence rumors and gossip. In response to such vitrolic and lamentational in nature many older Mà'dí, civic leaders, and clergy from Protestant and Catholic Churches alike, are calling for boundaries to be placed on what kinds of names should be given. However, few have invested themselves in finding new ways of resolving problems or dissipating the bitterness and resentment that have resulted from the living arrangements and economic conditions that have been caused by culture change. This dissertation approaches ethnography through the lens of names. Throughout it I discuss various domains of culture and historic process that have impinged on the Mà'dí, and an emerging category of hybrid names, providing quotes, exemplar names, and human interest stories to illustrate them. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Africa; Sudan; Uganda