Literacy practices in rural Tanzania

the case of Karagwe

Document identifier:
Access full text here:10.1080/01434630608668777
Keyword: Social Sciences, Educational Sciences, Samhällsvetenskap, Utbildningsvetenskap, Education, Ethnolinguistics, Literacy, Power, Tanzania
Publication year: 2006
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 4 Quality education
The SDG label(s) above have been assigned by


In this article I argue that literacy, as an aspect of language, is closely related to power. With the example of Karagwe, I show that different literacy practices relate differently to power. In Karagwe dominant literacies, that are officially prescribed and standardised, have a main function to sort people and maintain authority. As they are spread through schools, schooled literacies are very much geared at sorting pupils. Dominated literacy practises often have decorative and cultural functions and often do not follow standard norms, for example in spelling. In some cases there are local norms. Dominated literacies are more or less stigmatised. A third group of literacy practises, semi-dominant, are spread mainly through seminars and development agencies, such as different non-governmental organisations. These literacy practises, that are important for the improvement of daily life and economic conditions, focus both on formal features and on the content in the texts. I argue that literacy in Karagwe is an important tool for maintaining authority while it is at the same time a tool for people to contest and resist authority.


Åsa Wedin

Högskolan Dalarna; Svenska språket
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