Call For Papers | International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa


Theme: Oral Literature and Education

Deadline: October 15, 2013


The 10th Conference of the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA) will take place at University of Cocody, Abidjan, Ivory Coast  on June 11-15, 2014. ISOLA is committed to the promotion of excellence in scholarship. Proposed papers should have a clearly defined thesis, show familiarity with research trends, and address the conference theme, highlighting Africa and the African diaspora. The working languages of ISOLA are English and French.
Abstracts should be of no more than 500 words, in both languages, bearing the author’s name, institutional affiliation and a brief bio.

For more than a century already, a formal system, originating in a more script-oriented and supposedly universal tradition, meant to open the way to more transcultural values, has been superimposed on this “traditional” oral education. This evolution comes with a challenge: how is it possible to open up to the world without abandoning the specific values at base of the identity of these societies with an oral tradition? How can we preserve this cultural originality by avoiding excessive acculturation?
By examining the question of a fundamental need for balance, certain teachers came to the conclusion that various aspects of the oral tradition could be fruitfully imported into the school system. Consequently, many school handbooks made room for folktales, proverbs, epic or oral poems. In fact, in “modern” education in Africa, from the primary to the tertiary level, an opening was made for the inclusion of the oral literature.

Avenues of “popular” education, originating in the contemporary context, have also been added to the more formal sectors of education. This is a complex phenomenon, and might take the shape of public policy or of a religious institution or national or international NGO initiative. This “popular” education operates within the frameworks of sanitation, health (the fight against the HIV-AIDS, for example), civic education, etc. The various actors involved choose sometimes the recourse to oral literature for a greater impact of their educational message.
Education of members of a community occupies pride of place in the heritage of the societies with oral traditions. Beyond the youth, the education in question targets individuals throughout the course of their lives.

The primary framework is that of the so-called “traditional” operation of  societies. This first context has known various genres which served the purpose of the ethical (transmission of moral values and behaviours), artistic (oral arts training) and practical (suitable community activities and the assorted social behaviours) training of users. The majority of these genres, including the more playful ones, often fulfil an educational function as well. Some target the entire community (the case of the “knowledge” genres, including the proverb, proposing a body of general ethics), while others (marriage and agricultural songs, for example) address a specific group.

This conference proposes that we think about “Oral Literature and Education” following three broad thematic areas.

1: “Traditional” Education

This first thematic area welcomes papers focusing on the educative means (ethical, artistic, practical, etc.) deployed by the various oral genres (proverbs, folktales, songs of all types, initiation texts, tongue twisters and other types of word play) or genre systems. In fact, several genres sometimes form an education-oriented system. It then becomes important to apprehend the relation among them. Similarly, the identification of the purposes and of the didactic means employed is also important. Is their pedagogy dogmatic, inductive or interactive? Lastly, a given genre sometimes targets various levels of appreciation, as recalled by the famous introduction to Hampaté Bâ’s Kaydara:

Story, told, to be told…
Are you truthful?
For the small children playing in the moonlight, my story is a tale of fantasy.
For the women threading cotton in the long nights of the cold season, my narrative is a delectable pastime.
For the men with bearded chins and rough heels, it is a true revelation.
So, I am at once futile, useful, and a fount of knowledge.

Moreover, the traditional education system may also be studied from the point of view of the circulation of the word within the society. Indeed, specialized or reserved genres obviously exist. It then becomes useful to question the social category and the role of the instructor in question and the social category of learner in an identified field.

It might be interesting, finally, to consider the strategies of teaching or diffusion of oral texts in “traditional” society. These differ depending on the genre. Indeed, certain genres require the initiation of the future interpreter, while others are learned “naturally” in the course of social life.
2: Formal Education in Schools and Universities/Tertiary Institutions

A) This second thematic area considers the presence, for one reason or another, of oral literature in books or teaching materials of educational and academic institutions. Are these in the form of complete works or of extracts? How are they adapted? What transformations did they undergo to fit into this new framework? By what critical material and teaching aids are they accompanied? The study of the methods of presentation of these works should allow the clarification of their pedagogical objectives. In this respect, it is also possible to study the divide between the didactic exploitation of these texts in the academic framework and their cultural functions within their context of origin.
A special place will be given to the oral folktale, the genre primarily exploited as an educational tool. A series of comparative topics may be considered here, including:

i) the folktale and the moral order

ii) the folktale and narratology

iii) the folktale as a documentary source

iv) the folktale and written literature

v) the folktale and the other arts: audio-visuals, the performing arts, music, painting

vi) contemporary adaptations of the folktale

This list remains wide open to other relevant comparative perspectives such as:

• the relationship between oral literature and educational and academic institutions (institutionalization, anthologies, the “defence and illustration” of the oral legacy by first generation writers, reappropriations/reinvention/transgressions by contemporary writers and artists, and theatrical film adaptations)

• the ideological exploitation of the oral legacy

• Favourite themes: portraits of the “traditional” woman, the “ideal mother”, the good child and the rural environment
B) As an extension of Thematic Area 2, “Formal Education in Schools and Universities/Tertiary Institutions”.

A workshop on teaching and research in orality in tertiary institutions is porposed. This encounter, in the context of the conference, is aimed primarily at taking stock of the institutionalization of orality in the higher institutions of Africa, regardless of language and discipline orientations. Researchers from various parts of the continent are warmly invited to share their experience and that of their home institution regarding:

(i) curriculum (courses taught, perspective, discipline)

(ii) or research group or centre

(iii) publication (Web sites, journals, other paper and electronic publications)
(iv) of scientific animation (meetings, workshops, conferences) The results of this workshop will go towards the preparation of a collective publication, distinct from the proceedings of the conference, to be carried out in collaboration with certain participants.

3: Popular Education

This section concerns the use of orality (in particular proverbs and folktales, but also in neo-oral urban songs and advertising on television and radio, spaces of consumer “education” and diffusion of “modernity”) to sensitize the public about contemporary issues of a social, cultural and political order. From this point of view, it might be particularly interesting to examine the exploitation of the oral legacy by the media (radio, television, press), which is often controlled by the political authorities. It might thus be relevant to study the narrow line that sometimes separate popular education and the manipulation of public disguised as sensitization.

The working languages of ISOLA are English and French.
Abstracts of no more than 500 words, in both languages, bearing the author’s name and institutional affiliation and a brief bio note should be sent to:
Dr Leon Kofi:

For further information—registration fee, membership, transportation, lodging, and all conference updates, please their website.

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