Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye
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Literacy practices in the Mande Area

Monday 16 February 2009

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Panel : Literacy Practices in the Mande Area

Co-chairs: Anne Doquet & Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye

This panel calls for propositions dealing with literacy practices: accounts of practices observed in the field as well as reflections on the researcher’s writing practices. Literacy practices on grass-root level are often overlooked, but they are a growing part of people’s lives: notebooks or sheets of papers are held in a variety of settings, for a wide range of purposes. Literate skills often remain a scarce resource, which gives them a specific role in the present context of political changes at local level. Studies of schooling choices show that people still believe in the importance of literacy even outside formal schooling. This raises issues of languages and scripts (sometimes contesting the dominant status of official languages as written languages). Writing and reading practices invest the domestic sphere as well as the community level: keeping records, writing down knowledge, preserving secrets, etc. How do this processes interfere with oral modes of keeping and passing down knowledge? Along with these private practices, studies of bureaucratic literacies (and their private counterpart), local historical writing, as well as other uses of print and press would usefully complement this approach. The panel will also include papers dealing with the way the writing activities of the researcher are locally perceived. Literacy studies are a field of inquiry which is currently renewed by works from other African settings (see for instance the book edited by Karin Barber Africa’s hidden histories. Everyday literacy and Making the Self, Bloomington, Indiana Univ. Press 2006). We believe that Mande studies could benefit from this developments and provide new insights on this theme


Part 1. Authority Between Oral and Written

- Anne Doquet, Centre d’études africaines (EHESS-IRD) Les écrits de l’anthropologue : enjeux autour de la forme et du contenu
- Giuseppina Russo, Centre d’études africaines (EHESS-IRD) Traces des origines. Récits de fondation politique dans la région de Sikasso (sud-Mali)
- Ralph Austen, University of Chicago Who Was Wangrin and Why Does it Matter?

Part 2. Practicing Literacy in a Multilingual and Multiscriptual Setting

- Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye, Centre d’études africaines (EHESS-IRD) Qu’est-ce qu’écrire pour soi ? Approche ethnographique de cahiers personnels d’agriculteurs près de Fana (Mali)

- Francesco Zappa, Università di Roma, La Sapienza L’imprimé islamique: nouvelle frontière du bambara écrit ?

- Cécile Van den Avenne, ENS Lettres et Sciences Humaines, ICAR, Lyon Un moment colonial dans la scripturalisation du bambara : étude de deux manuels à l’usage des administrateurs et des militaires

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