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For Professors of Anthropology, Ethnomusicology, African and African Diasporic Cultures

Why order this book and how it may be of interest for your students

As part of the Palgrave Literary Anthropology series, Jeliya at the Crossroads is both anecdotal and analytical. Dr. Feder intends to conduct seminars and workshops online and in person in the near future building on the themes in this book.

Jeliya at the Crossroads: Learning African Wisdom through an Embodied Practice will be of interest to:

  • those who wish to do engaged fieldwork through fully embodied participation called Transformative Ethnography.  

  • those interested in how local cultures move into the global arena, From Local to Global

  • those wishing to explore deeply the hard questions involving Race, Money, and Power

  • those who study African Music and Culture in the Diaspora.

Transformative Ethnography/Race, Money and Power

In this book, the author, a white, American, Western educated woman, describes her decades-long fieldwork in a West African musical culture. She describes the process of learning balafon music from Guinean teachers, a practice which serve as a tool for deepening her understanding and finding her rightful place in this society. In her work with jelis in New York and Paris, she is forced to reckon with her own, culturally conditioned assumptions and prejudices, to reflect on and realize that her firm beliefs are merely social constructions, programmed since childhood. She discovers that it is not only possible, but necessary, to questions these beliefs, and sometimes to un-do and reconstruct them. Her fieldwork crosses economic, racial, cultural, religious, gender, and other borders and gives an example of what is possible in bridging these divides. But the process is two-fold, as many of her interlocuters are also undergoing their own transformations as they seek a new path to carrying out their profession of jeliya in the global arena.


This book offers an approach to conducting a "transformative ethnography" that can change the way we practice fieldwork in our profession. The intention is that this methodology can build bridges based on mutual trust and respect for all people on all sides that may suffer from being misunderstood and judged in a complex world.

Read Lisa's article on Transformative Ethnography on HERE

From Local to Global/African Music in the Diaspora

In this book Lisa reveals how the jeli (griot) culture is transforming quickly as its practitioners more and more frequently live in Europe and the United States. Lisa traces how musical styles of performance shift between all-African to mixed-cosmopolitan concerts. Lisa also gives voice to jelis in both New York and France who tell of the trials, tribulations, advantages, and risks in integrating their culture into the global arena, as well as their concern that the deep values embedded in their culture may be disintegrating after 750 years. They explain how they are surviving and thriving in the diaspora, and reveal their hopes and dreams for the future. 

Professors Paul Stoller, Steve Pond, Barbara Hoffman, and author of In Griot Time, Banning Eyre of Afropop endorsed this book. Read what they had to say here. 

For updates on seminars, or if you wish to have Dr. Feder come to your institution, send us an email on the contact page, or directly to Lisa at 

Samples from the Book

Chapter 3: Moving with Gambians

If things were already tense, I had certifiably entered into a state of panic. Heat crawled up the core of my body, and my consciousness was hovering over the physical me. Being grabbed and pulled by the arm was past my limits of acceptable. Having crossed the line, I was not sure what Lansiné was capable of doing. Perhaps this is where the fruits of my experience in the Gambia were being put to the test. Did I really embody and digest what I was living here? I was completely dependent on the good will of this one person for my well-being in the Gambia, and according to my cultural norm, he had just breached my trust. Nevertheless there was a strong level of humanity here, and I knew how to access it. In the Gambia, Allah was everything and he was benevolent and good. Invoking Allah in a moment of real fear was the key to unlock the door of Lansiné's conscience. 

Chapter 10: Living "in between" Cultures

I am caught in between two systems of being, two worldviews: my organized, pre-planned, fixed price system, and the old ways that Famoro has taught me--to be in the moment, go where your heart moves you, be gentle and cool-headed in the face of conflict, to negotiate well--for this is what it is to be wise. Paul Stoller suggests that if "other systems of knowledge contain much wisdom, then we have much to learn from the likes of the Azende or the Hauka, and that such learning can be personally  transformative" (Stoller 2009, 24). Our personal transformations are proof that culturally relative wisdom can transcend cultural boundaries. 

Chapter 6: At Home: Lessons in Respecting Time

On the subway home, Famoro [Dioubate] reiterated what he has already demonstrated: he was giving the children an African indigenous education that they would not learn in their American schools. In Africa, he said, "our parents teach us to watch. Be quiet. Observe. You see someone does something you like? Someone knows how to make good money and you like that? You watch him. Don't jump too quickly. You see what he does. You see another person is suffering in life? What do they do to make themselves suffer? You watch. Stay quiet. Then one day you get the inspiration. I teach that to them. In New York, people jump too quickly. They don't take time." 

Chapter 11: Paris 2015-2021 Below are the T words of three jelis, Gbessa Sékou Dioubaté, Seydou "Kanazoé" Diabaté, and Mamady "Djeliké" Kouyaté.

Q. Will jeliya continue? 

Sékou: "We will continue! But Europe is diminishing it in a bad way...whatever level of intelligence you have, your elder will see what makes you sweat. But he won't be sweating because he sees ahead...When we started our studio in Conakry, we were using analog tape and vinyl! Now, it's all in this computer. This little black app, that's Logic. Things have modernized. We can earn money while being a griot. It's okay because even in jeliya we have to modernize, but without abandoning our own culture, our own music."

Kanazoé: "If you watch TV, they'll show you Africa, you'll see just the shit, just the false things, the people are not well, they are sick. That's not Africa! You have to come and see for yourself that it's not like that. In Africa, we are united! We are all together. If you don't have any money and you come to my house, you will be welcomed, you'll eat well, we joke around, we enjoy! Because we are here today, but tomorrow we may be gone." 

Djeliké: "The words that we, the griots pronounce, we say that you do not have to be necessarily African to pronounce them! It is not a question of continent. We hear true words said often, from people in many other continents..Even across the modern and industrial age which binds us together, we share the same fate, our common future. This is for those who share a common destiny, the destiny of being human."

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