An Ethnographic Study of Literacy Practices in a Village Community in Malawi: Exploring Figured Worlds

Mjaya, Ahmmardouh (2018) An Ethnographic Study of Literacy Practices in a Village Community in Malawi: Exploring Figured Worlds. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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My study seeks to explore how the theory of self and identity, especially the concept of ‘figured world’ (Holland et al, 1998) can enhance the understanding of literacy as social practice in Malawi. Combining ethnographic and discourse analysis approaches, I investigate the everyday literacy experiences and understandings of adult literacy learners, literacy officers and other villagers in different activities such as government and donor-assisted relief and cash transfer programmes, community-initiated income-generating activities and an adult literacy class. My study uses data collected over ten months in a village community in Zomba, Malawi through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, informal conversations, documentation and photography.
Employing conceptual tools such as literacy practices, figuring, authoring, positionality and artefact, I explore community members’ literacy meanings and discourses in their everyday life. I examine how the literacy practices privileged in some figured worlds shape community members’ literacy identities and power relationships in those worlds.
My findings show that the concept of figured world has the potential of enhancing literacy studies based on the concept of literacy as a social practice in Malawi. Through the concepts of improvisation, agency and resistance, my study reveals that adult literacy learners’ literacy identities and power relationships were not only fluid and unstable but also situated. I illustrate that community members encountered many literacy practices employing different literacy artefacts, but gave more significance to the symbolic value than to the reading and understanding of those artefacts. Besides, the study shows that community members’ lived literacy experiences shaped their understanding of what counts as literacy. It reveals the tension between the official and the adult literacy learners’ figuring of assessment, which revolves around independent and collaborative efforts respectively.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Stacey Armes
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2018 16:29
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2018 16:29


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