Time in Africa

  • Henry J. Rutz
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_8895

In every society, one source by which time is divided, measured, and expressed by objective signs is the mutual obligations and principles that structure social relations between persons and groups. Among the most important is kinship. In those societies in which kin communities encompass the widest range of social relations, time is expressed as duration and succession of kin‐ordered activity. Perhaps the best‐known case is that of the Nuer, a Nilotic pastoral people who live in villages of the upper reaches of the Nile in Sudan.

E.E. Evans‐Pritchard has given us a rich account of ways in which village kin communities conceptualize and reckon time as an aspect of social structure. Among the multiplicity of times apprehended by Nuer, three of the most important subsystems are (1) a series of social activities articulated with a series of ecological events by which one is used to measure the duration and succession of the other; (2) a series of age‐sets that measures intervals and...

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  1. Evans‐Pritchard, E. E. The Nuer. New York: Oxford University Press, 1940. (Reprinted 1970).Google Scholar
  2. Rigby, Peter. Time and Historical Consciousness: The Case of Ilparakuyo Maasai. Comparative Studies in Society and History 25.3 (1983): 428–456.Google Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Henry J. Rutz

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