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The value of literacy in a rural community in Mali: An ethnographic account of one man's writing practices - LRDG Seminar

Date: 20 October 2009 Time: 1-2 pm

Venue: IAS Building, Meeting Room 1

Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye, Centre d'études africaines & IIAC/équipe Anthropologie de l'écriture, EHESS, Paris.

The value of literacy in a rural community in Mali: An ethnographic account of one man's writing practices

This presentation will draw on ethnographic data collected since 2002 as part of a study of personal literacy practices in rural Mali. For this paper, I will focus on one of the most prolific writers I have worked with, Moussa Coulibaly, a young adult who went to primary school and who informally acts as a literacy-broker in the village. Though his writings betray features of "grassroots writing", the range of practices he engages in is impressive: writing letters, making shopping-lists, recording family events, accounting, etc.

I will pursue three lines of analysis. Firstly, I will argue that his writing practices provide a lens through which to examine the web of local practices he is part of. It reveals how omnipresent writing is, even in a context with low literacy rates.

Secondly, I will offer insights into broader language and literacy dynamics by focusing on the uses of Bamanan and French, the two languages Moussa Coulibaly writes in.

Finally, this study will explore the anthropological meaning of his writing practices as a technique of the self. I will sketch out Moussa's career as a writer, highlighting the social benefits he gets from his uncertain but intensive engagement with writing.

Throughout this presentation, I will discuss the methodological challenges of linking textual analysis with a broader ethnographic approach.

Event website: http://www.literacy.lancs.ac.uk

Contact:

Who can attend: Anyone

 

Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Educational Research, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
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United Kingdom

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