Not Just Child’s Play: Emerging Tradition and the Lost Boys of Sudan

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I am delighted that the University Press of Mississippi has just released this paperback edition of Felicia R. I plan to order this book the next time I teach my children's folklore class for undergraduates. All author royalties for book sales will go to the Lost Boys of the Sudan.

Not just child's play: emerging tradition and the lost boys of Sudan

The latest issue of Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore includes an article I wrote about the book, with pictures of some of the courageous young men whose performances inspired the book's publication. Here's a link to the article: I've worked with several Sudanese men in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, as a mentor and friend.


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What I found most interesting about the book was that she chooses not to focus on the harsh realities of the Sudanese Lost Boys experience, but instead digs deeply into Sudanese traditions of song, dance and art. Along her journey, too, McMahon taps into unknown territories where she's the first to point out that more research needs to occur.

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Extremely well-versed in her academic field, she not only produces a deeply researched text, but also a cultural introduction to the years before cultural conflicts caused a historical uprooting of native people and traditions. I read this as a friend to the Sudanese community, a teacher, a student and a man very aware of today's global realities. Felicia McMahon's book is a great addition to my library. See all 3 reviews. Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers.

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Set up a giveaway. Feedback If you need help or have a question for Customer Service, contact us. Would you like to report poor quality or formatting in this book? Click here Would you like to report this content as inappropriate? Click here Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. University Press of Mississippi, This is a compelling story of how these new residents of Syracuse, New York, have with McMahon's assistance re-enacted their dance-song traditions to actively transform their DiDinga identity as uninitiated males into a new hybrid identity as Black refugees from Sudan living in the United States.

The DiDinga, a minority group in the southern Sudan often confused with the Dinka, have been minimally documented by anthropologists or historians, much less folklorists.

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Research on their language, their rituals, and their traditional occupational practices as well as their music and song, has been sparse to nonexistent or inaccurate. McMahon takes us on her ethnographic, research, and linguistic journey toward knowing and understanding this particular group of DiDinga. As she found after accidental conversations with several of the young men, who had been resettled in the Syracuse area along with "Lost Boys" from several different ethnic groups from Sudan, the DiDinga are not part of the Nilotic tribes Kalenjin, Luo, Ateker, Nuer, Dinka, Shilluk with whom they are generally associated.

DiDinga do use cattle to measure wealth, as currency, and for marriage transactions, which are very similar to those of others indigenous to southern Sudan. But the DiDinga come from a different culture and language group, which includes the Murle and Longarim, and they do not practice the ritual scarification rite of passage parallel, bone-deep cuts to the forehead common to Nilotic groups. Nonetheless, DiDinga boys do go through a series of age-set appropriate rituals and ceremonies that transform them into adults, into "warriors" who are thus able to marry.

That process starts when a boy receives his first cow and makes his "bull song. Performance at those gatherings, which also involves a call-and-response performance by age-set mates, transforms bull songs into love songs meant to attract future mates. But there is more to becoming men than singing.

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Boys learn to be men, "warriors," by taking care of their personal cow and family herds, which also involves taking part in cattle raids and the occasional killing of enemies. Mothers' songs, which have historically encouraged their sons in these activities, as well as the rhetorical dance-songs and public ceremonies, underscore the warrior metaphor.

Tragically, this available model made it possible for various military groups governmental and rebel armies to co-opt the traditional "warrior" language and poetics of traditional cattle raids to conscript young boys. Those children learned to survive unspeakable horrors, but any semblance of childhood was lost in the process. Paradoxically, however, the young men now in Syracuse are still "children" according to DiDinga tradition because their age-sets were never able to undergo the traditional rites of passage to manhood.

As children, they still play—and the dance-songs they perform are those of children mimicking the practices of adults.

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