Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“A Place of a Hundred Things”: The Plurality of Literacies in Community Context
by Maraia, Gerald C., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2019, 172; 13900944
Abstract (Summary)

This study investigates literacy practices and events, including orality and storytelling, within the social and cultural context of a rural village in Rwanda, referred to as Agace. The study employs ethnographic principles and methods to explore participants’ experiences and perspectives related to literacy practices in the local public school and homes within the village, and how multiple literacies, specifically orality and storytelling, influence school and community practices. The theoretical framework for this study considers The New Literacy Studies (NLS) theory of literacy as a social practice (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Collins & Blot, 2003; Heath, 1983; Street, 1984/1995), research on the plurality of literacies (Gee, 1996; Street 1995), conceptions of illiteracy and deficit discourse theories on literacy (Freire & Macedo, 1987; Giroux 1987), and orality and oral literature in Africa (Finnegan, 1988; Ong, 1982; Street, 1995). There is limited qualitative research that seeks to understand literacy practices in rural Africa, and other non-Western, non-urban contexts. Furthermore, though a deficit orientation is commonly applied to research in African communities, this study conversely employs an asset-based orientation (Scribner & Cole, 1973; Green & Haines, 2008), intentionally emphasizing strengths, resources, and capacities of literacy practices and orality. For these reasons, this study utilizes ethnographic, participatory methodologies to directly engage with the local community to explore the plurality of literacy practices and perspectives, including the ways in which people engage with diverse practices that are rooted in oral and other non-technical forms of literacy that are commonly overlooked.

This study details the connections and disconnections, including curricula, pedagogical practices, and teacher-parent relationships, between the school and home specifically centralizing language, literacy, and culture. Though reading and writing literacies are central at the local public school, orality and storytelling are the dominant literacies practiced in homes and elsewhere outside the school environment. The findings of this study demonstrate the value of considering multiple literacies beyond the dominant functionality and technicality of reading and writing. The study concludes with implications for further research on studying the plurality of literacies in community context and developing culturally sustaining pedagogies (Paris, 2012) that are inclusive of community-based literacies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Strong, Krystal S.
Commitee: Campano, Gerald, Ravitch, Sharon M.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education, Social research, African Studies
Keywords: Literacy practices, Multiple literacies, Orality and storytelling, Participatory action research, Pedagogical practices, Rwanda
Publication Number: 13900944
ISBN: 9781085652155
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