Riddling as Everyday Discourse: Analysis of Context, Event, and Audience


African Humanities Program Dissertation Fellowships




Riddle performance is more than just verbal art in the form of questions and answers; it is the intellectual discourse of everyday life. Unlike previous studies that have taken a narrow view of the riddle and by that considered it out of context, this study treats the riddle in context as embedded and embodied communication. Applying ethnographic and performance-centered approaches to case studies from the Busoga region in Eastern Uganda and employing critical discourse theories for analysis, this project demonstrates that an artistic record of the riddle must elaborate the context, event, and audience of each instance of the riddle. Such documentation also facilitates accurate re-performance, production, and reproduction of this largely neglected genre of literature. The result of this study is an analytic record of a sample of riddles that documents the performer and the non-verbal performance features, aspects previously less emphasised in riddle scholarship. The ordinary people who perform riddles are acknowledged as the authors of this grand work.