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LRDG seminar: Mowo, an everyday story of country folk (and their literacies)

Date: 12 February 2008 Time: 1.00 -2.00 pm

Literacy Research Centre Seminar Series

Mowo, an everyday story of country folk (and their literacies)

Ian Cheffy

There is more similarity than at first meets the eye between Mowo, a small village in northern Cameroon, and Ambridge, the fictional setting of the BBC radio series "The Archers". Young people get married against their parents' wishes, sudden deaths in the family cause turmoil, and sometimes families are even riven asunder by murder. All this in the context of the prevailing social and economic issues of the area, whether the environmental policies of the government and the EU as in Ambridge, or the fragile state of the cotton industry in Mowo.

These dramatic threads in the supposedly tranquil life of rural Cameroon come together in the experience of Gabriel, a local man belonging to the blacksmith caste, who would be capable of making pools of water appear miraculously out of the ground, but for his strong Christian faith. Gabriel, one of the main informants for my research in Cameroon last year, often writes letters for other people as he, unlike the majority of adults in the village, went to school and is able to read and write independently. My discussion of his letter writing practices will touch on issues such as his choice between the several languages spoken in the area, his manner of expression, and his interaction as scribe with the senders of the letters he writes. Letter writing is clearly a complex art. I hope also to address wider issues, such as the place of letter writing in relation to alternative means of communication and how people who need to communicate with others decide between writing a letter, making a mobile phone call, and simply going to see the person concerned.

Everyone welcome

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Institute for Advanced Studies, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Literacies, Literacy


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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Lancaster University
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