Social strain and culture conflict in the West African novels
Moore, Jane Ann
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To describe the structural strains and cultural conflicts that take place when two social systems confront each other, the concept of Transitional Role was used to analyze the sociological adaptation in the social system, and the concept of Perceptual Distortion of Transitional Roles by different groups was usee to analyze the strain and conflict that continued. In order to locate, describe and analyze Transitional Roles in Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the social science reserach in five categories of Husbands and Wives, Buyers and Sellers, Priests and Pastors, Administrators and Agitators and Servants and Masters was examined. In order to evaluate the Perceptual Distortion of the Transitional Roles described, the available social science reserach was compared with two samples of novels (those by West Africans and those by Europeans) about West Africa. The following were the findings: (1) Social strain and culture conflict affect both groups, West African and European. (2) Social strains exist in all the above aspects of colonial life. (3) Despite severe dual systemic strain, the colonial social system operated as one viable social system. (4) Not all social strains are resolved immediately by the creation of Transitional Roles and therefore, the historical development of Transitional Roles indicates that they continue to change. (5) Social circles formed around transitional roles and as these social circles proliferated, the basis of a new society was established. Thus a positive resolution of social strain has been located and described in the development of Transitional Roles. The findings of this study resulting from the application of Levels of Transition to culture conflict indicate that: (1) the European novelists see culture conflict as maladjustment existing with the individual African either in the form of reversion to an earlier evolutionary stage or in the form of poor imitation of British culture; and they do not see their own involvement in culture conflict; (2) the African novelists, in contrast, locate culture conflict between the various Levels of Transition or within social relationships between the numerous West African social circles, and secondarily between British and West African Transitional Roles. The findings of this study resulting from the evaluation of Perceptual Distortion suggest that (1) Transitional Role incumbents are more accurate observers than are stabilized role incumbents. (2) Perceivers observe members of their own social system of origin more accurately than they perceive a foreign social system. (3) Segregation, "Time Lag" and ideology distort perception. This analysis substantiates the proposition that novels are of limited value as sources of sociological insights unless they are compared with social science research and unless the orientation in terms of social membership of the novelist is known. The reading public in the est, to the extent that it has depended upon European novels as its source of information about West Africa, is inadequately informed. Americans who rely on this fictional material have looked at West Africa primarily through European eyes.
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