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.

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