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The Pale Fox

  • Germaine Dieterlen and Marcel Griaule

  • This is the English translation of the classic French ethnography on the Dogon creation myth, ‘Le renard pâle,’ published in 1965. Although Griaule's ethnographic methods have come under attack (see van Beek, document no. 31), this is nevertheless an impressive work. The myth tightly weaves together Dogon ideas about language, anatomy, astronomy, botany, the landscape, and genealogy. Could the creation myth be a mnemonic device for storing and transmitting Dogon knowledge? The myth represents the accumulated knowledge of Dogon elders, underlying their authority, and serving as a blueprint for Dogon social life. It is also an epistemolgy, in which ideas are thought to emerge through a hierarchy of symbols: from traces (BUMMO) to signs (YALA) to figures (TONU).

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