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Overcoming obstacles of space and time in Literacy Studies: from writing on early twentieth century postcards to the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Abstract for invited open lecture: Literacy Studies is distinguished by an ethnographic approach, immersing oneself in the phenomenon of interest. Two foundational studies, by Shirley Brice Heath studying the literacy practices of families in the United States, and by Brian Street who studied vernacular literacies in Iran, were distinguished by a social anthropological methodology. Literacy is understood as instantiated in observable events; lengthy engagement with such events are needed for the researcher to develop emic understandings of practices. Combining multiple tools and instruments is a vital element of Literacy Studies. In this paper I will present how I am endeavouring to adapt core understandings of Literacy Studies to two projects in which the ethnographic avenues towards understanding literacy practices outlined above are impossible. When studying writing on early twentieth century postcards I cannot observe or interview the participants as they are no longer alive. The challenge in studying the Umbrella Movement was different: I could spend only 7 hours collecting data. I will explain my methods, share some of my findings and discuss implications for Literacy Studies.

External organisation (External collaborations)

NameUniversity of Stavanger