22.- 25.9

P 29

Multiplicities of il-/literacy: Reading and writing practices beyond clear cut dichotomies

Carlos Kölbl, Psychology, University of Bayreuth
Issifou Abou Moumouni, Social Anthropology, University of Bayreuth/Lasdel Parakou (Benin)

Short abstract:

Clear cut dichotomies have become obsolete thus a look at the multiplicity of il-/literacy is
imperative. Topics to be worked on include the emergence of new forms of il-/literacy and possible forms of competing il-/literacies in the presence of different systems (e.g. Arabic and Latin letters).

Long abstract:

We depart from two intertwined observations:

1. Work of such scholars as Lurija, Havelock or Goody delineated binary oppositions between literate and illiterate societies or subjects, but also between disciplines mainly concerned with literate respectively illiterate societies or subjects. These oppositions have become fuzzy. Differentiations,however, calling for example for functional literacy remain vague, too, as long as one does not ask: functional for what? A thorough look at the multiplicity of il-/literacy today is thus imperative.
2. Few ideas have travelled around the globe as successfully as the one that literacy is a basic need, right and standard. Nowadays people everywhere move through lifeworlds heavily shaped by written signs. Master narratives of illiteracy situate it as ‘traditional’, something that will become obsolete. Up to now, however, illiteracy is not at all obsolete as can be seen particularly well in Africa. Besides new forms of il-/literacy are constantly emerging with a tendency towards a departmentalization of il-/literacy (e.g. digital il-/literacy, health il-/literacy and others). These ‘new’ il-/literacies in Africa (and beyond) can be seen as being related to and constantly produced by ongoing global processes that mainstream western-oriented literacy through schooling but also through (specific)
alphabetization programmes.

Against this backdrop we would like to work on the following questions including historical analyses:

Which new forms of il-/literacy emerge and which multiple forms of coping with literate
environments can be reconstructed? How do persons acquire certain skills in respect to different il-/literacies in and beyond educational institutions? Which societal factors favour or constrain which forms of il-/literacy? Do il-/literacies compete if different systems such as Arabic and Latin letters are involved and if so in which ways?
The panel focusses on empirical studies, but conceptual contributions are also welcome.


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