ORALITY AND LITERACY III: MEMORY
Rice University, Houston, Texas
October 10-12, 2003
Please click on the participant's name to read an abstract of his/her talk and a selected bibliography.
Saturday morning - Group 1:
Catherine C. Fourshey
Sheryl A McCurdy
Bertrade B. Ngo-Ngijol Banoum
Saturday morning - Group 2:
Gerhard F. Strasser
Hanne Kolind Poulsen
Chris van den Berg
Caroline K. Quenemoen
Saturday morning - Group 3:
Gregory H. Maddox
Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts
Sunday Morning - Group 1:
Pieter J. J. Botha
Richard A. Horsley
J. A. Loubser
Sunday Morning - Group 2:
David Blaise Ossene
Sunday Morning - Group 3:
Mary Ann Clark
Anne C. Klein
John Miles Foley
Remembering Tanzanias Past through Language
This paper examines the ways in which language and oral tradition serve as a form of historical memory in southwestern Tanzania, a region where orality has precedence over literacy. The objective of this paper is to examine the ways in which language preserves historical memories and at the same time shapes those memories through oral traditions in southwestern Tanzania. The notion that memory metaphorically preserves history is explored to demonstrate how language, vocabulary, historical linguistics, and oral traditions serve as important tools for historians. From analyses of language and the oral traditions of southwestern Tanzania we learn that there was a widespread political transformation in the earlier parts of the second millennium CE when small-scale social and political organization was supplanted by a system where political authority became increasingly relevant. For example, Lungu traditions connect their chiefly lines to Sabi people (Bemba and Bisa), a connection which aggrandizes Chiefship and which is indirectly supported by historical linguistic evidence. Recurrent themes in traditions of Tanzanias Corridor revolve around relationships between migrants and natives, political shifts, marriage alliances, and the pervasive tension between conflict and peace within these communities in the eras beyond living memory. Just as what people remember of their history is meaningful, how people remember and recount their history reveals a great deal about how they perceive cultural change. Whether myth-encased or true accounts, stories of ancient and contemporary events are strategically orchestrated in traditions of any community to disseminate a larger message which is of both historical and modern importance to that particular community. Thus I explore the recurrent themes in these traditions compare those themes to linguistic data and ask how can we make historical sense of both what is remembered and how it is remembered.
1. Cooper, Brenda and Steyn, Andrew (eds.). Transgressing Boundaries: New Directions in the Study of Culture in Africa Athens: Ohio University Press, 1996.
2. Larson, Pier M. History and Memory in the Age of Enslavement: Becoming Merina in Highland Madagascar, 1770-1822 Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000.
3. Petrilli, Susan and Ponzio Augusto. "Telling Stories in the Era of Global Commnication: Black Writing Oraliture," Research in African Literatures 32, 1 (2001) 98-109.
Orality, Memory and Historical Time on the Luapula (Zambia)
Based on research conducted in the 1940s, anthropologist Ian Cunnison wrote a seminal account about the use of history and historical narrative among the Luapula peoples of Mwata Kazembes Kingdom in Northern Zambia. Cunnison demonstrated how forms of particularized memory shaped political relationships between and within lineage groups through the compression of historical time, the inheritance of ancestral titles (positional succession) and kin relations (perpetual kinship). Cunnison argued that histories in the Luapula Valley were particular, relevant to the present, and only known to the appropriate group. Thus, history was closely linked to collective memories and to particular identities. Yet since Cunnisons study, through the distribution and performance of written, printed histories, a universal, general history of Mwata Kazembes Kingdom has challenged and displaced older conceptions of historical time. They have inserted history into a fixed chronology that stretches out the compressed time of Luapulas oral traditions. Collective memories held by distinct lineages have been subordinated to the universal history of Kazembes Kingdom, and if they are to survive must locate themselves within this universal history.
By tracing transformations in the historical narrations about and within the Luapula Valley over the last fifty years, we can explore the impact of literacy, and especially the spread of printed histories that work within specific notions of historical time, on the collective memories of non-literate corporate groups. We are able to trace the transformation from what Pierre Nora termed regimes of memory to those of history with remarkable detail. Furthermore, I argue that one aspect of what Richard Werbner terms the "memory crisis" of postcolonial Africa, results from the disjuncture in notions of historical time that have surfaced from the engagement of social memories with scripted histories.
The paper is based on intermittent fieldwork in the Luapula Valley over the last six years in addition to archival records and previous ethnographic accounts.
1. Cunnison, Ian. History on the Luapula: An Essay in the Historical Notions of a Central African Tribe. Lusaka: Rhodes-Livingstone Paper 21 (Cape Town: 1951; reprinted Manchester: 1969)
2. Nora, Pierre. "Between History and Memory: Les Lieux de Mémoire, " Representations 0(26), Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory (Spring, 1989): 7-24
3. Werbner, Richard. "Beyond Oblivion: Confronting Memory Crisis," in Richard Werbner, ed., Memory and the Postcolony: African Anthropology and the critique of power (Zed: London and New York, 1998): 1-17.
Healing and memory: Spirit possession performances and nationalist narratives in Ujiji/Kigoma, Tanzania
During the latter half of the nineteenth century Ujiji was an entrepot through which Zanzibari traders traveled through and settled as they moved into the Congo where they ravaged and plundered communities for ivory and slaves. The memory of the different groups of people who populated Ujiji and their various practices, relationships, and statuses has been immortalized in a spirit possession ceremony that mimics and mocks their memory. Relatively recent rural Ha migrants to Ujiji/Kigoma, Tanganyika have utilized the waungwana/vibaraka/washenzi (gentlefolk/stooges/barbarians) spirit possession ceremony to claim a Swahili national identity. This three part performance begins with their possession by spirits who depict Zanzibari traders from the ivory and slave trade era. The appearance of the male and female Zanzibari trader spirits is followed by the appearance of spirits who represent dangerous characters from various places in the interior of Tanzania. Finally the study ends with a spirit performance that depicts simple people who are ignorant of and fear other cultures. These last spirits are meant to represent those African communities that had not yet been acculturated into the Swahili cultural milieu. Based on research conducted during 1992-93 and the summers of 1999, 2000, and 2001, this paper examines the ways that women in spirit possession associations in urban Ujiji/Kigoma, Tanzania embrace and retell a story of the past to lay claim to a contemporary space in Tanzania.
Gendered Narratives of Counter-Memory: Austrian Women Writers Remember National Socialism
The famous Moscow Declaration of 1943 that recognized Austria as the first victim of Nazi aggression allowed the Austrian governments of the immediate post-war years to nurture the development of a very special "Austrian identity"in clear distinction from a German identityand thus construct a public (collective) memory that would displace any sense of guilt or responsibility for the horrendous crimes committed between 1938 and 1945. Collective amnesia, brought about by decades of systematic self-deception, denial, and finger-pointing (to the "bad" Germans), has profoundly shaped the communicative, collective, and cultural memories Austrians share. My paper will explore the role of artistic "remembrancers" (Peter Burke) that women writers have assumed in this specific context since Ilse Aichinger wrote her novel Die größere Hoffnung (1948). Their resistance to national silence and mythificationand thus their literary creation of alternative memory spaces amidst a well-constructed "master narrative" carries gendered features that distinguish their representations of the experience/aftermath of National Socialism from that of their engagés male colleagues. Of major importance for the selected authors (and their protagonists) are the issues of intergenerational communication about the past, womens solidarity in guarding/transmitting their memories, and the physical/bodily archiving of (fascist and post-fascist) historical experience.
1. Aleida Assmann, Erinnerungsräume: Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses. München: Beck, 1999.
2. Sigrid Weigel. Bilder des kulturellen Gedächtnisses: Beiträge zur Gegenwartsliteratur. Dülmen-Hiddingsel: tende, 1994.
Bertrade B. Ngo-Ngijol Banoum
African Orality and Social Identity: Imag(in)ing Gender and Womanhood in Basaá Epic Tradition
As the foremost repository of African worldviews and as a central component in traditional education, (A. H. Ba 1982, I. Okpewho 1992, M. M. Mugo 1994), African verbal arts seem key to understanding ancestral traditions and social constructions, including gender identity. Paradoxically, this critical source of institutionalized knowledge base has been egregiously neglected, most particularly the epic, which is one of the richest African oral genres. As a showcase of customs, values and beliefs, as a virtual social, political and cultural charter of society embodying deep-rooted aspects of its cosmology and worldview, epic sources appear as logical starting sites for understanding indigenous gender construction.
Excavating Africas most notable heroic narratives such as Sundiata (Niane 1965, Johnson 1992) and Chaka (Mofolo 1981), Mwindo (Biebuyck and Mateene 1969), Ozidi Saga (Clark-Bekederemo 1991), and other epic works representative of the diverse continent (Okpewho 1979) and (Johnson, Hale, & Belcher 1997) unveils compelling representations of gender and women. In the introduction to their anthology Oral Epics from Africa, the co-authors usefully note that, "The world of the epic appears at first to be dominated by men. One soon discovers, however, that the heroes of many of these epics . . . depend on women both in childhood and later at key points in their lives" (9). Yet, Africas rich oral epic traditions have been unexplored and unexploited in inquiries of gender and women. This paper is an attempt to fill the gap by examining gender identities and images of womanhood as represented in the Basaá oral epic tradition and most particularly in Bon ba Hiton, a chronicle of the Basaá people of Southern Cameroon. I wish to conduct a gendered review and analysis of customs, including genealogy, geography, identity, nuptiality, through naming conventions, marriage practices, bridewealth exchanges, and gender socialization, in order to elicit indigenous conceptualizations and realizations of gender. My analysis goes beyond reinforcement of traditional gender conventions, reminiscent of classical ethnographies (Radcliffe-Brown and Forde 1950, Jomo Kenyatta 1965, Evans-Pritchard 1959), to capture exceptions that stand as a counterbalance throughout the epic.
I will focus on resistance to the powerful patriarchal authority by young female characters such as Kibum, Ngo-Hiton and most interestingly, Ngo-Cenel. I want to argue that young women like Ngo-Cenel illustrate the ways in which the past may inform the present. Devising their own contemporary realities, the young female characters transcend the conventional oppositions of tradition vs. modernity, precolonial vs. postcolonial, local vs. foreign, to produce new kinds of synthesis the modernity of tradition. They challenge Western assumptions about the homogeneity of the category African women and the universality of gender models. I share the viewpoints of Amadiume1(987); Imam, Mama, and Sow (1997); Okeke (1997); Hodgson and McCurdy (2001); Oyewumi (1997, 2003), and other scholars, who are concerned with constructing gender frameworks that draw on specific historical and cultural locations, constituencies and epistemologies. Accordingly, I want to address the questions: How can the knowledge base contained in African epic works inform our reconfiguration of gender, women, and feminism, to avoid what Olufemi Taiwo calls the "poverty of theory"(45)? How can the knowledge base contained in African epic traditions sharpen ongoing discourses and contribute to the growing body of literature on gender?
Remembering the Resistance in Popular Theater: A Basque Controversy
I explore the relationships between history, ethnography, and memory within the context of a popular play (pastorala) about Resistance to the Occupation of the French Basque province, Soule. I consider not only how remembrance of the past is contested and reshaped, but also how an artistic representation can serve as an idiom for ongoing arbitration over collective memory, which itself has implications for a national French identity and an ethnic Basque identity.
Watched by 6,000 people, performed in 2001, and written by a Souletine Basque, the play depicts the two rival Resistance groups operating in Soule (1942-1944) as cooperative allies. The playwright described it as "memory work" in verse, not "a strict lesson in history", not "realist but symbolic theatre" which sought to celebrate the liberation of Soule. The pastorala did rekindle animosities between the two Resistance groups (one Gaullist, Basque and local, the other ex-French Army and "foreign"). Its performance brought back memories of discord that marked the 20th anniversary of Soules liberation in 1964, and triggered afresh heated debates about tactical and ethical issues dividing resisters during the Occupation. Some people boycotted it. Some praised the play for its classic format with the Good (Resisters) always victorious over the Bad (Nazis). Others sharply criticized the playwright for distorting history.
As a lieu de memoire, the play also provides a test case for Fabians model of academic ethnology/academic historiography/popular historiology.
1. Fabian, J. Anthropology With An Attitude : Critical Essays, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.
2. Winter, J. & Sivan, E. War and Remembrance, Cambridge: CUP, 1999
From Classical Memory System to Perspective Device: John Donne's "The Anniversaries"
The revival of classical memory systems in sixteenth-century England and their absorption into the scientific methods of the seventeenth-century has been well documented by Frances Yates, among others. Yet this treatment of memory as part of an occult philosophical tradition in the renaissance may have suppressed the degree to which memory was also an established part of early modern visual culture, and was thus seriously undermined by the growing popularity of single-point perspective. My paper examines the significance of perspective for understanding old and new techniques of memorialization in several poems and artifacts by the seventeenth-century poet John Donne. In these works, Donne anatomizes memory itself as a way of drawing attention to profound shifts in the experience of time and of subjectivity. In particular, by incorporating pictorial strategies into his memorial poem The Anatomy of the World, he seeks to clarify the distinction between strategies of recollection based on multiple-point perspective and those based on a more modern single-point perspective which disengages the present self from its past and future, and from memorys traditionally more fluid strategies of reassembly. When Donne claims that "the new science calls all into doubt", he may well be arguing against the advent of history as a science.
1.Nora, Pierre. "Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire." Representations 26 (Spring 1989): 7-25.
2.Yates, Frances. The Art of Memory. London: Pimlico, 1992.
3.Guibbory, Aschash A Map of Time: Seventeenth-Century English Literature and Ideas of Pattern in History Chicago: University of Ill
Gerhard F. Strasser
Mastering World History from Adam to the Year 1670: Johannes Buno's Mnemotechnically Illustrated Idea Historiae Universalis
The late medieval ars memorativa saw a decline in the north of Europe during the century of the Reformation, but by 1600 a spate of purportedly new mnemotechnical methods spread in France and Germany. One important teacher of mnemonics was Johann Balthasar Schupp (1610-61), professor of history and rhetorics at the University of Marburg, who in 1639 edited an earlier Theatrum Historicum sive Chronologiae Systema Novum. Several of his students refined Schupp's mnemotechnical methods, among them Johannes Buno (1617-97). An early, 1647, publication on world history for the first time used groups of 10 mnemotechnical illustrations to be analyzed in a pattern influenced by late medieval memory tracts and purportedly enhancing retention. In his three major works of the 1670s that were devoted to the study of history, law, and the Bible, Buno refined his earlier method. In the first of these publications, the 1672 Idea Historiae Universalis, Buno subdivided world history into the four Biblical millenia before Christ's birth and the 17 centuries after that. Each of the four millenia is represented in a mnemonically relevant visual manner, beginning with the first 100 years that used "Adam's family tree" as a backdrop on which one event in each of the "first" 10 centuries is mnemotechnically illustrated--Adam, sitting on the number 930 (his age), is shown wiping tears from his eyes to recall the expulsion from Paradise ... . The second millenium uses "Boards" as a backdrop to recall the building of Noah's ark, the third a "Camel," the millenium of Christ's birth a "Dragon" to illustrate the idolatry of the Israelites (brought upon by a devil in the shape of a dragon ...) before the arrival of Christ. In each of these four large illustrations, each century (beginning with the second millenium) is subdivided into 10 smaller frames that need to be read in a "Z" pattern for the first 5 frames, and an inverted "Z" pattern for the second group, thus modifying the 1647 system. Each of the 17 centuries after Christ's birth is awarded a separate illustration that once again uses a visually relevant detail to help memory recall: Beginning with the letter "A" all over (since Buno's alphabet of 20 letters would otherwise not have enough letters to the 17th century), the first century A.D. is characterized by a giant "Adler/eAgle" to set the frame for the "Roman monarchy", while the 17th uses a "Rahmen/frAme" since there were so many diverse occurrences after 1600 that they all needed to be set in a proper "frame". A necessary refinement of the illustration of each century is the subdivision of each picture into 10 decades, each of which has to be analyed according to the "Z/inverted Z system." It is evident that a presentation would have to include several of these mnemotechnical illustrations in order to show the wealth of details especially in the centuries before Buno's life. The author suggested to mount each of these (folio-size) illustrations on canvas and hang them up as a perpetual reminder (there was also a quarto-size publication of the illustrations in which each of the individual occurrences had the size of a finger nail ...); contrary to his 1647 publication, he now provided a detailed prose explanation of the thousands of individual illustrations that needed to be read alongside the pictures. Buno's system actually preceded the "pedagogical realism" of the 18th century and was used in a number of schools well into the 1720s--at which time mnemonically illustrated overviews of history had been replaced with "simple," tabular books.
1. Emblematik und Mnemonik der Frühen Neuzeit im Zusammenspiel: Johannes Buno und Johann Justus Winckelmann. Wolfenbütteler Arbeiten zur Barockforschung, 36. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2000
2. Jean Michel Massing: "From Manuscript to Engravings: Late Medieval Mnemonic Bibles." In: Berns, Jörg Jochen and Wolfgang Neuber, eds.: Ars memorativa. Zur kulturgeschichtlichen Bedeutung der Gedächtniskunst 1400-1750. Frühe Neuzeit, 15. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1993, 101-115.
3. Berns, Jörg Jochen and Wolfgang Neuber, eds.: Seelenmaschinen. Gattungstraditionen, Funktionen und Leistungsgrenzen der Mnemotechniken vom späten Mittelalter bis zum Beginn der Moderne. Frühneuzeit-Studien, N.S., 2. Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau, 2000
Hanne Kolind Poulsen
Images of Memory: Luther, Cranach and the Notion of Merckbilder
During the earliest years of the Reformation and under the pressure of the iconoclastic riots, Luther developed a radical new concept of images. This concept gave to the image a quite different role that the one it had occupied in the Catholic Church. To Luther the image was primarily a mnemotechnical device, whose correct function was not to represent anything, but as a sign to refer to something, namely to the Word, and thereby making the spectator remember it. In a sermon from 1521 Luther mentions the so-called Merckbilder (mass-produced, cheap woodcuts with roughly drawn motifs). You do not believe in these rough reproductions, he said, but they remind us of something we already know.This was precisely what images should.I shall discuss Cranach the Elder's peculiar, simple, anti-realistic (and often misunderstood) painting style as a visual correlative to Luther's thoughts on images. Cranach developed, I will argue, a mode of painting that satisfied Luther's requirements to images as Merckbilder, memory images. Cranach's method was to balance his works between on the one hand acknowledging their obligation to be "only" signs (their abstract aspects), but on the other, after all, to make them able to activate the memory of the spectator by means of reality effects, clearly referring to a (Lutheran) meaning determined beforehand.
1. "Choice and Redemption: On Lucas Cranach the Elder's Melancholia in Statens Museum for Kunst", Statens Museum for Kunst Journal, 4, 2000, p. 40-75.
2. "Fläche, Blick und Erinnerung. Cranachs Venus und Cupido als Honigdieb im Licht der Bildtheologie Luthers", in: Lucas Cranach. Glaube, Mythologie und Moderne, ed. Werner Schade, Hamburg 2003, p. 130-143.
Rewriting the Bible : Josephus appropriation of the Jewish past in the Jewish Antiquities
In this paper, I wish to deal with Flavius Josephus, the famous fist-century Jewish historian, and with his appropriation of the biblical narrative in his Jewish Antiquities. This work, which he viewed as a translation of the Bible, is more like a retelling of the Bible and of the Jewish past, aiming at a non-Jewish audience, even if Jews certainly read it as well. Although he promises in his work neither to add nor to omit anything from the Scripture, it is a well-known fact that he modified and changed it on many occasions, mainly for apologetic purposes. In my paper, I wish to explore the way in which the Jewish memory as embodied in the Bible is used and appropriated by this author in order to defend and increase the prestige of the Jewish faith towards a pagan audience. In particular, I wish to concentrate on the myth of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11) as used by Josephus in his Antiquities.
1. Th. W. FRANXMAN, Genesis and the « Jewish Antiquities » of Flavius Josephus, Biblica et Orientalia 35, Rome, 1979.
2. L. H. FELDMAN, Josephus Interpretation of the Bible (Hellenistic Culture and Society XXXIII), Berkeley - L. A. - London, 1998.
Father, Tyrant, or God?: The Commemoration of Caesar in the Roman Forum
Recent studies of commemorative monuments have highlighted the integral relation between the social and political processes of creation and rhetorical effect. Yet studies of Roman commemoration overlook the forces underlying design, partly for lack of evidence. The commemoration of Caesar, therefore, offers a valuable case study. Caesar's assassination and funeral threatened the established social order. Whether Caesar deserved commemoration and in what manner quickly became the locus of social tensions, revealing a deep division between the Senate and plebs and within the senatorial order itself. Between 44 and 42, the debates played out in meetings of the Senate and in the Roman forum, as competing factions erected monuments to commemorate Caesar, only to have them torn down and replaced. At stake were claims to the authentic memory of Caesar. Although many revered him as a father, many others claimed he was a tyrant. Octavian and the Senates decision in 42 to deify Caesar and erect a temple on the site of his funeral pyre proved pivotal for reconciling these debates. Examining how the design of the temple responded to debates concerning Caesar's commemoration attributes the buildings ultimate success to its ability to forge consensus in the fractious years of the triumviral period.
1. Montagna Pasquinucci, M., La decorazione architettonica del tempio del Divo Giulio nel foro romano [MonAnt I.4 (Rome 1973)].
2. Weinstock, S., Divus Iulius (Oxford 1971).
3. Nelson, R. ed., Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade (Chicago 2003).
Monica H. Green
From Memory to Written (Medical) Record: Female Medical Practice and the Transition to Book-Based Medicine in Medieval Europe
The exclusion of women from virtually all medical practice save midwifery and nursing in western societies until the late 19th century has been assumed to be an inevitable process enforced by patriarchal control over the institutions of higher learning, the universities. Yet the majority of even male medical practitioners in medieval Europe, when the universities were first founded, was not university educated. The crucial gender differential in men's and women's medical learning, and their ability to gain formal approval for their medical practice, lay instead in differences of basic literacy. This paper, based on over 15 years of research on medieval women's medicine, will explore how European women created medical knowledge and transmitted it without the benefit of literacy, how that orally-transmitted knowledge was first coopted then rejected by male practitioners, and how European women finally made the transition to literate medicine from the 16th century on. This study has potential to enlighten other cultural histories of the relation between women's medical knowledge and book-based medicine.
1. Clanchy, Michael T. From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307, 2nd rev. ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993).
2. Miller, Gordon. "Literacy and the Hippocratic Art: Reading, Writing, and Epistemology in Ancient Greek Medicine," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 45 (1990), 11-40.
3. Abugideir, Hibba E. "Egyptian Women and the Science Question: Gender in the Making of Colonized Medicine, 1893-1929," Ph.D. dissertation (Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, 2001).
The Mnemonics of the Heart: Marinating in the Stories of Scripture
Modern, scientific thought identifies memory as a function of the head. As a professional biblical storyteller, who performs the biblical texts close to verbatim, I am often asked, "How many stories do you have in your head?" In fact, memory is more anatomically diffuse. The head-memory concept is severely limiting and constitutes a virtual impediment to the process of learning by hearta process akin to the ancient practice of "keeping the words." I suggest that Deuteronomy 6:6 ("Keep these words that I am commanding you in your heart.") is, as it were, the "first corollary to the Shema" and the cornerstone of Hebrew spiritualityone which has largely been lost to generations of literate people for whom "sacred text" has become external ink on paper rather than sound/image/feeling remembered in the deep, internal places. This paper will draw on my experience as a performer in whom some texts of the biblical tradition have lived for over 20 years and my work on methods for learning texts by heart which I call "the synaesthetic/multiple intelligences approach" (and only semi-facetiously "St. Ignatius meets Stanislavsky ") to explore the possibilities of finding elements of a pedagogical methodology for post-literate post-modernity in the oral spirituality of Jesus and the tradition in which he was educated.
1. Boomershine, Thomas. Story Journey: An Invitation to the Gospel as Storytelling. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988.
2. Nidtich, Susan. Oral World and Written Word. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
The Ritualization of Memory: the interface of written and oral tradition in Ibandla Labancwele of George Khambule
The Zulu prophet George Khambule founded an indigenous Christian movement in the early 1920s in the aftermath of the military defeat of the Zulu kingdom. He wrote the prophecies and experiences he received down in Zulu script in diaries and hymns. These were performed orally by himself but also incorporated in liturgical actions, leading to multiple variant written versions. This created a "sacred history" of the movement embedded in the community long after his death. This paper explores the interface between the incorporation of oral tradition in ritual performance as an aspect of and creator of communal memory.
1. Berger, Peter and Luckmann, Thomas 1966. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatises in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Doubleday [Anchor].
2. Clothier, Norman 1987. Black Valour: The South African Native Labour Contingent, 1916-1918 and the Sinking of the "Mendi". Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.
3. Gleeson, Ian 1994. The Unknown Force: Black, Indian and Coloured Soldiers through Two World Wars. Rivonia, Johannesburg: Ashanti.
Re-membering Idioms of the Heart: Nineteenth-Century San Folklore and Twentieth-Century San Politics
Folklore of /Xam San foragers of South Africa collected prior to 1900 is marked by a comprehensive idiom of social technology involving powers of the heart. 1970-1990 Namibian Ju/'hoan San folklore and healing texts reveal a similar emphasis on the heart's transpersonal power. They share a tapestry of such ideas with neighboring Bantu-speaking Tswana agriculturalists, perhaps upsetting scholarly paradigms which have stressed cultural isolates and functional coherences. Ju/'hoan public rhetoric taped since Namibian Independence (1990) uses re-membered heart idioms in the new multicultural context of nation-state politics.
Gregory H. Maddox
Transcribing Memory: Writing Oral Traditions in Central Tanzania
This paper will examine the work of a local historian of the Gogo people of central Tanzania. Ernest Musa Kongola has devoted his last two decades to writing histories of his community. He has recorded clan histories, written biographies (including his autobiography), produced commentaries on changes that have occurred among his community over the twentieth century, and worked with two "guild" historians. This paper will examine Kongolas quest for history. It will argue that in producing his volumes, Kongola is defining a moral order for his community and placing himself in the center of his community and that order. Such a presentation is of course contested and indeed transitory. His writings rather than defining a history by reducing it writing, serve as another argument in an ongoing dialogue about the past.
Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts
'Between Memory and History': Visual Hagiographies and Lieux de Memoire in Congo and Senegal
Culture heroes and saints exact devotion through hagiographic images, oral narratives, and written texts. Hagiography is an active process of identity formation located in a conceptual space somewhere between memory and history. Rather than mere description, hagiography sweeps up the viewer, listener or reader so that his/her life becomes an extension of the saint's. Hagiography is explicitly interactive and intersubjective, for as Edith Wyschograd asserts, saints' lives do not merely exist, they are endlessly refabulated. In this way, hagiography possesses its own vitality, ensuring that the life of a hero or saint is forever perpetuated in a "sacred present" that is continuously grafted onto the pure potentiality of a remembered past. At issue is what Johannes Fabian calls a "way with time" driven more by consequences than sequence, so that instead of a Western-style historiography, there results a "historiology: the shared memories of colonial and postcolonial history objectified in written texts, oral accounts, and visual images." The grafting processes of visual hagiography take place in tensely creative interstices between memory and history, for imagery stimulates and is stimulated by both oral narratives and written texts.
This presentation will consider the visual hagiographies of Luba people of Congo/Kinshasa and of the Mouride Sufi movement in Senegal. The writings of Edward Casey and Pierre Nora on memory, history, and lieux de memoire will be considered in the context of these two case studies. Among Luba people of central Africa, complex mnemonic devices reflect Luba concepts and practices of memory. Luba perceive memory as a "string of beads," whose contingent elements are the people, places, and events of the past, to be endlessly reconfigured in narrative combinations. Mary Nooter Roberts will demonstrate how the culture heroes of Luba kingship are embodied and reborn through chiefs, kings, and female spirit mediums in the present, and how an understanding of "place memory" and "body memory" offer new perspectives on Luba historical consciousness.
The second case examines the life of a Senegalese saint, Sheikh Amadou Bamba (1853-1927), a mystic, poet, and pacifist colonial resister who founded the influential Sufi movement known as the Mouride Way. A single photograph of the Saint taken by colonial authorities in 1913 has become a palimpsest for the myriad interpretations of the Saint's life, and the catalyst for an explosion of artistic imagery produced over the past twenty-five years. As the Mouride diaspora expands around the world, Bamba is being reinvented as an "alternative figure in nationalist memory" standing for and promoting "a rupture in postcolonial memory and a new modernity," in the words of the historian Mamadou Diouf. Allen F. Roberts will consider the role of baraka and batin, two Sufi principles that activate and empower the image to stimulate memory and to ensure that history is forever perpetuated in the present.
Pieter J.J. Botha
Memory and Orality in the Jesus Traditions
John Dominic Crossan, most prominent historical Jesus researcher of the past few decades, emphatically denies the importance of the oral tradition with regard to the historical Jesus. He points to research showing how memory is a creative act, even when or especially when sincerity and conviction are present. He (1998a:60) reminds us, correctly, how much fact and fiction, memory and fantasy, recollection and fabrication are intertwined in remembering. And how nobody, including ourselves, can be absolutely certain which is which, apart from independent and documented verifications. Hence his emphasis on written tradition. However, even superficial familiarity with non-Western cultures should make anyone aware of how dangerous it would be to deny the role and importance of oral tradition and "living memory" (i.e., face-to-face history) with regard to social institutions, authority, daily life, and especially religion. Consequently, historical research relating to the Jesus movement must take into account a combination of social-scientific with historical and literary criticism to discipline claims about the intersection of memory, orality and literacy. Before reconstructing the "sources" underlying the gospels, we need to understand the socio-cultural processes involved with what we call "traditions": (1) How was (popular) historical information perceived by its culture? (2) How was communicative events relating to "tradition" taught and learned, and by whom? (3) How was "tradition" described by contemporary transmitters (writers)? (4) How was the relationship between oral, traditional material and audiences understood?
1. Bloch, M. E. F. (1998). How we think they think: anthropological approaches to cognition, memory and literacy. Boulder: Westview Press.
2. Rubin, D. C. (1995). Memory in oral traditions: the cognitive psychology of epic, ballads, and counting-out rhymes. New York: Oxford University Press.
Richard A. Horsley
A Prophet Like Moses/ Joshua/ Elijah: Israelite Cultural 'Scripts' Underlying and Adapted in the Gospel of Mark
In a recent book on the Gospel of Mark I argued that Mark's story of Jesus' mission of the renewal of Israel versus the Roman and Jerusalem rulers is informed by and creatively adapts the central Israelite cultural "script" of a popular prophetic movement. That suggestion builds on previous work that detects such a distinctively Israelite cultural memory underlying and informing the many popular movements among the Judean and Samaritan peasantries that take the form of prophets leading their followers in antipation of new diving acts of deliverance patterned after God's great acts of deliverance through the leadership of Moses, Joshua, Elijah and other prophets that were formative of Israel as a people and its cultural memory. The groundbreaking work of Werner Kelber on the interface of orality and literacy in the synoptic Gospel tradition and his work on the "biosphere" of cultural tradition in which continuing oral performance of Jesus-traditions and Jesus-stories were embedded, and the richly synthetic theory of John Miles Foley on imminant art and oral performance have stimulated and informed my previous reflection on the importance and adaptation of such cultural "scripts." I would now like to bring two additional perspectives into the analysis of the "popular prophetic script" adapted in Mark's Gospel: Jan and Aleida Assmann's sophisticated theory of cultural memory (as supplemented by critical attention to possible differences between emphases in the cultural "great tradition" and those in the "little tradition," with few leaves from the notebook of James C. Scott's work) and the cross-cultural studies of social memory by James Fentress and Chris Wickham, and in particular Phillipe Joutard's studies of the legends of the Camisards among the peasants in the Cevennes mountains of southern France. Further analysis of and reflection on Mark as an orally derived text drawing upon the work of these theorists should shed further light on the operation of the popular prophet and prophetic movement in Mark's story and the historical situation in which it originated.
J A Loubser
Memory and Oral Intertext in Matthew
This paper aims to contribute to our understanding of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and how such knowledge can be applied fruitfully in our search for understanding the interface between developed nations and developing nations where traditional oral culture plays a formative role. Especially in South Africa, where modern and traditional cultural strategies meet in all walks of life and interact in a dramatic fashion, such studies are of great importance for mutual understanding in the fields of economy, religion, education, jurisdiction and politics. The paper shows the inadequacies of modern interpretations of a first century text of the Gospel according to Matthew by drawing on present knowledge of the psychodynamics of oral traditions. A comparison with the oral trajectories within the contemporary Shembe tradition in South Africa will serve as an illustration of the processes involved. Western scholarship of the Matthean text rests on "the assumption that the Synoptic traditions have to be analysed in terms of a linear sequence of literary editions, where each successive version is an editing of its predecessor". According to Dunn this "simply distorts critical perception and skews the resultant analysis" (James G. D. Dunn 2000:306). This statement can be corroborated by a typological comparison of the manner in which the oral tradition around the person of the Zululand prophet Isaiah Shembe developed over a period of sixty years. The manner in which narratives of Isaiah Shembe are generated to suit the context and the historical consciousness of its audience show structural similarities to similar processes in the gospel traditions. The written text of the Gospel according to Matthew shows a rich inter-textuality. It may have incorporated some written texts that are now lost to us, but in general it is woven from the fabric of oral texts that have been honed and polished through infinite repetition from memory. This memory is not only the memory of cognitive elements, but also of extra-textual elements such as sound patterns. Scholars have also for a long time been intrigued by the closeness of Matthew to Aramaic-Hebrew linguistic features. A detailed analysis of selected passages will show that some cohesive links of the Koine Greek text derive from the sound patterns of the Aramaic-Hebrew tradition that preceded it. Even though we only have the written text today, it will serve scholars well to learn to "read the text not only with their minds but also with their ears". An understanding of such processes involving indigenous knowledge structures will not only provide Africans from traditional backgrounds with a tool to clarify their own positions with confidence, but also allow them to make their unique contribution to international scholarship. This will also enable Western scholars a new understanding of variant forms of Christianity and cultural expression in Africa.
The true gospel is an oral narrative proclaimed from memory to a responsive audience.
There is no other access to the text of the NT apart from entering it through the experience of the first audiences.
One can observe patterns, determine the semantic components of words and concepts, but the text is only comprehended when the rhetoric of the text is comprehended.
What the text does to the first audiences.
This poses a first question for exegesis: What does the text do to a responsive audience?
This sheds new light on the audience receptions reported in the written gospel. The first audiences were amazed, bewildered, provoked, moved to faith and manifestations of the Spirit.
Gerhardssons distinction between the Evangelium and the Apostolos applies. The latter was a second reflection on the first.
From Contestation to Attestation: Fostering Exchange of Memories in Debates over the Multicultural Content of U.S. History Textbooks
In this paper I draw upon Ricoeurs notions of attestation and testimony to explore the interplay of personal identity, collective identity, and political action in a public debate over the content of U.S. history textbooks submitted by publishers for adoption in Texas. During the hearings, participants contest the meaning of the American past and others representations of that past through testimonies that draw upon differing narrative configurations of American history and differing refigurations of narratives presented in textbooks. Through these narrative mediations, participants attribute intent, action, and responsibility to themselves and others, constructing personal and collective American character and imbuing it with historical depth. I describe how the adversarial structuring of the hearings and the textbook adoption process reinforces participants assumption of a single authoritative representation of American history and identity. The hearings serve as forums in which participants contest the accuracy of historical representations rather than as spaces in which multiple stories or voices can be attended to and learned from. Understanding participants narrative figurations as attestations of self, identity and experience (as well as claims to epistemic truth) reveals possibilities for designing institutional processes that support mutual attentiveness and recognition, and thereby an exchange of memories among participants.
1. Ricoeur, Paul. Oneself as Another. Trans. Kathleen Blamey. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992.
2. Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative, vol. III. Trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Mediating Memory: 'Tradition' in Freud's Moses and Monotheism
In theorizing memory, Freud poses the stability of textual and biological inscription against the ephemerality of oral communication and childhood experience. In this paper, I argue that in his last book, Moses and Monotheism, Freud inserts a third term-- tradition-- which mediates between the two communicative processes, allowing a complete transference of memory-materials to future generations. Central to my argument is a close reading of a long passage from Freud's Moses in which he explains the phenomenon of Jewish collective memory by reconstructing the numerous ways that the original traumatic memory of the murder of Moses was transferred from generation to generation through a curious chain of oral and textual transmission. Freud had earlier explained how memory-traces result not only from a person's individual childhood experiences, but rather also from various original traumatic events (such as Oedipus or in this case, the murder of Moses) experienced by the individual's ancestors. Here, however, with tradition as the key term, Freud historicizes the transmission of memory and its transformation into permanent traces.
1. Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. (1939).
2. Yerushalmi, Hayim Yosef. Freud's Moses: Judaism Terminable and Interminable (New Haven: Yale University, 1991).
The proem of Hesiods Theogony and the tradition of memory as a vehicle of oral justice
In the beginning of his Theogony, Hesiod tells us that Earth lies with Heaven and from this union were born Theia, Rea, Themis and Mnemosyne. The inclusion of Memory as one of the most ancient deities marks her importance among pre-literate Greeks. In the same proem, Memory lies with Zeus and gives birth to the nine Muses. The poets dependence on the Muses is a common theme in epic poetry, as is the kings dependence on Zeus. But, at the same time, Hesiod demonstrates the relationship between singer and king, and especially the king as judge. Havelock argues that Hesiod means to say that the king must be able to frame decisions and judgments in verse because, when speech is metrical and formulaic, only then it can reflect the voice of the Muse. In the same way, the Muses, thanks to laws in verse form, help the judge to remember; furthermore, in some Greek cities the judicial officials were called mnemones, rememberers. This association, which places poetry and the royal art of persuasion under the protection of Muses, especially Kalliope, of beautiful voice, forms the centre of my problematic. My aim is to demonstrate the meaning and the prolongations of this Muses connection not only with poetry but also with justice. In this scope, I am examining the invocation to the Muses of the legislator Solon and of the philosopher Empedocles, who from this point of view, I argue they belong in the same tradition.
Some bibliographical items:
1. J. Duban, «Poets and Kings in the Theogony Invocation», Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 33, 1980, p. 7-20.
2. E. A. Havelock, Preface to Plato, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1963.
3. J. A. Notopoulos, «Mnemosyne in Oral Literature», Transactions of the American Philological Association 69, 1938, p. 465-493.
The Platonic Myth of Theuth and Electronic Media
In the Phaedrus, Plato creates the Myth of Theuth to claim that the transition from orality to literacy also generated an important loss of memory for mankind. We shall examine how the Myth of Theuth is relevant to explain the links between orality, literacy and memory, and how it can be applied to the contemporary transition between typography and electronic media. In other words, which Myth of Theuth shall we create today, to understand how the "computerisation" of the human logos does affect the memory of mankind ?
Memory, Imprint of the Soul
Memory and writing are intimately connected in philosophy. In the Philebus (39a), Plato already tells us that memory, when coinciding with sense-perception, "writes discourses in our souls". In general, from Plato to Aristotle, and from the Stoics to Plotinus, many philosophers resort to the theme of inscription the imprint in wax to account for memory. In the Theaetetus (191c), Plato makes use for the first time of the image of wax and imprint to account for memory: "the wax inside our souls", gift of Mnemosyne, mother of the Muses, could explain how we remember "what we have seen, heard or conceived by ourselves". What was only a working hypothesis for Plato becomes the model of analysis of memory for Aristotle: the imprint, because it can be taken in itself or in relation to the seal which informed it, can explain both the reactivation of the original affection and the relationship to the event, now past, which imprinted it. With the Stoics, the image of the imprint is taken over by Zeno, founder of the school, in order to define phantasia, i.e. the affection left by sensitive or intellectual perception. Cleanthes interprets Zenos position literally, while Chrysippus rather considers the imprints as a kind of modification or alteration of the soul. Finally, Plotinus calls into question the metaphor of the imprint in wax: such a metaphor, he explains, treats the soul as if it were only passive, whereas memory, like the other psychical powers, is an act. However, this criticism does not prevent him from appropriating the notion of imprint, which he understands as an intermediate representation between the soul and the intelligibles, representation from which we must distance ourselves if we want to reach true knowledge.
1. G. WATSON, Phantasia in Classical Thought, Galway University Press, Galway, 1988.
2. H. J. BLUMENTHAL, Plotinus Psychology, His Doctrine of the Embodied Soul, Martinus Nijhof, The Hague, 1971.
Founder's Myth in Highland Madagascar: The Case of the Vazimba
According to the Merina, the ethnic group currently dominating the central highlands of Madagascar, the Vazimba were the region's original inhabitants, chased away or killed off by early Merina, newly arrived from Indonesia. Though Merina have occupied the region for several hundred years, the story of Vazimba continues to be of central importance to Merina collective memory. As masters of the land, Vazimba have a natural power yet were unable to defeat their aggressors. Ideas about what happened to the Vazimba sporadically surface in the scholarly literature. Rather than adding to that discussion, this paper takes the position that the historical reality of Vazimba is perhaps less significant than the role their story plays in forming Merina identity. Drawing on the theory of precedence established for Austronesian cultures, this paper begins with the notion that the Vazimba story represents an important variant of the typical founder's myth and that its continued importance in oral tradition serves to both assert the Malagasy-ness of the Merina and justify their claims to the territory. Finally, perceiving the story as a functional tool consistent with Austronesian ideas of order truncates the scholarly discussion, which has focused on proving or disproving the reality of Vazimba.
1. McWilliam, Andrew. 2002. Paths of Origin, Gates of Life: A study of place and precedence in southwest Timor. Verhandelingen Van Het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 202. Leiden: KITLV Press.
2. Rakotomalala, M., S. Blanchy, and Francoise Raison-Jourde. (2001). Madagascar: Les Ancetres au Quotidien. Paris, L'Harmattan.
What is remembered in Xhosa izibongo
The Xhosa praise poet (imbongi) in South Africa draws on the past to affirm the identity of the audiences present before him. It seems reasonable to suppose that as the audience changes, and as his conception of that audience likewise changes, so too will the images of the past in the imbongi's poetry (izibongo). To test this hypothesis, the oral poems of three iimbongi from the same ethnic cluster will be examined: D.L.P. Yali-Manisi, who produced his last oral poem in 1988 towards the end of the apartheid era; Bongani Sitole, whose career spans the transition to democracy in South Africa; and Zolani Mkiva, who rises to prominence as an imbongi on the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President.
Bridging Orality and literacy: Letter Writing Schemes in War-time Colonial Kenya
The paper examines how African soldiers communicated with their largely illiterate, rural relatives in colonial Kenya during the Second World War. Introduced by the colonial government to sustain the morale of their troops on the war-front, letter writing schemes forced many African soldiers and their civilian counterparts at home to learn how to write because that was largely the only way of communicating with one another. Letter writing schemes tried to brige the gap between orality and literacy, as African civilians and African soldiers were forced to learn how to write letters to communicate with one another. Problems that the scheme encountered, and how the government, African soldiers, and civilians tried to resolve them are examined. The paper also looks at the contents of some of the letters, revealing issues that upper-most in the minds of African soldiers and civilians during the war.
J. K. Ayantayo
The Ethics of Remembering, Memorizing, and Documentation of IFA Divination System Among Yoruba People, Nigeria
Since memory relates to knowledge, hence the study of the Ifa divination system, which has been scholarly proved to be a body of knowledge and an academic discipline. It involves impartation of general knowledge of Ifa orality and literature which include memorization of hundreds of ese (verse) in each odu (chapter) about histories and myths, regarding the foundation of particular Yoruba towns and villages; it also includes having knowledge about oral and written literature dealing with magic, incantation and healing by the power of words. These are always accompanied with chanting of Ifa poems which are mathematical in outlook. In all, knowledge about Ifa involves didactic training which usually begins with memorization, cramming, and permutation; the period of training ranges between 8 - 10 years. It is important to note that Ifa memorization goes with observance of certain ethical principles such as discipline, faithfulness, perseverance, endurance, dedication, self denial and cooperation. These will be discussed in this paper in relation to why, how, when the ethical principles are directly important in the articulation of Ifa knowledge to the trainees. Ethical issues also come into play regarding the translation of Ifa oratory to Ifa corpus as will be demonstrated in the work. For example, morality demands that the ese which is memorized should be faithfully imparted without distortion of facts so that not a single word is missed out and such should be faithfully documented without adding or subtracting anything from it. The study concludes that ethics is indispensable in Ifa memorization as related to remembering cognitive knowledge about Ifa which is regarded as Yoruba god of wisdom. On this note the study creates an impression that the application of morality to the memorization of Ifa orality and corpus would make the study about Ifa relevant and to be in consonance with globally approved research ethics; this is the application of moral rules and professional codes of conduct to the collection, analysis, reporting, and publication of information about research subjects.
Mary Ann Clark
Unraveling the Memorative Web of the Santera Altar Display
Every year on the anniversary of their initiation into the priesthood, practitioners of the Afro-Cuban religion of Santera build elaborate altar displays for their deities, the Orisha. This paper uses the work of Mary Carruthers and other scholars of memory to explore the ways that the historical and mythological past is memorialized on these so-called birthday displays. Like the world of medieval scholars, their world sits on the cusp between orality and textuality and like the medieval world, it is symbolic, concrete and experiential. Thus philosophical and theological concepts are based not on printed materials but on personal experiences and verbal explanations. Although there are several ãpastsä that could be explored in an analysis of these displays in this paper I will specifically investigate the ways that the food placed on and around the altars and served to participants not only weaves together information about the different Orisha for those who enjoy it but also embeds memories about the slave trade and the sugar culture that brought the original devotees of the Orisha to the Americas.
1. Carruthers, Mary J. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
2. Brown, David H. "Toward an Ethnoaesthetics of Santera Ritual Arts: The Practice of Altar-Making and Gift Exchange." In Santera Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, edited by Lindsay, Arturo, 77-146. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.
Memory as Practice of Sustenance
Thinking about memory from the point of view of oral mind/practice requires we shift attention from the literate discipline of recorded history to practices of sustenance. To develop this claim, I will address the ways in which practices of memory, located within the body, earth, ancestors, muses, and stories, work together to sustain a people. Briefly, aural, interactive, embodied speech sustains memory through repetition, rhythm, and imitation, in concert with imagery and metaphor, sustaining tradition by keeping it ringing in our ears. Second, events happen in a time and place, in an interactive dance of human and non-human beings, such that the roar of the waterfall or swoop of the eagle re-minds the people of their shared experiences and responsibilities. Third, lines remain thin between ordinary and non-ordinary (physical and spiritual) reality, sustaining the presence of ancestors not only in the past but as participants in the present, providing an ongoing retrieval. Fourth, offspring of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the muses serve, as Hesiod explains, to inspire orators and bards from the fountains of spirit, "a state in which the ears have opened to the song of the universe" (Campbell, Power 25). Fifth, tellings of sacred stories of beginningsmythssustains memory of who the people are, where they come from, and how to act as real human beings to elicit cooperation from spirits, plants, animals, and humans.
It would, of course, be a mistake to take these practices to stand apart from one another. Fundamental to oral memory is actioninteraction. Interactive, memory is not cumulative, as Goody explains, but wrapped with experiences, leaving behind what no longer serves as it sustains that which does. Forgetting is part of remembering! Overall, it is the embodied interaction of people with ancestors, muses, and earth, through tellings of stories and daily experiences, and through re-memberings and forgettings that sustains a peopleand a planet.
1. Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers. B. S. Flowers, Ed. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
2. Jack Goody. The Domestication of the Savage Mind. New York: Cambridge UP, 1995.
3. Hesiod. Theogony. Trans. Norman O. Brown. New York: Liberal Arts P, 1953.
Between Memory and Consciousness: Orality, Literacy and Scientific Underdevelopment in Africa
From the point of view of Eric Havelock (1991), literacy ( as a mnemonic device) is the single most important cause of scientific and technological development in the West. This view is not only shared by Walter Ong in several of his earlier works, but in Orality and Literacy (1982), he extended the dimension of Havelock's thesis by arguing that literacy led to alterations of the human sensorium, that is, the human psyche and consciousness itself. The corollary of this as I have shown in two earlier papers (Biakolo, 1999 and 2002) is that African underdevelopment in science and technology can be attributed to its largely oral communicative cultures. On the other hand, in a 1997 essay where he concerns himself with the implication of Akan causality for science and technology, the African philosopher, Kwame Gyekye, says that the main reason for the scientific and technological backwardness of Africa is the hegemony of the mystical over empirical explanations in the minds and social processes of traditional and even postcolonial Africa. The upshot of all this is that the condition of science and technology in Africa is the consequence of certain essentialist properties of the African mind. What is disregarded is a range of historical elements that have kept Africa where she is today, elements of a political and economic nature which indeed can themselves be held to account for Western science and technology. The main objective of this paper is to analyze these historical factors.
1. Biakolo, E. (2002) 'Categories of Cross-cultural Cognition and the African Condition' in PHILOSOPHY FROM AFRICA: A TEXT WITH READINGS. 2nd Edition. Eds. P.H Coetzee and A. P. J Roux. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. 9-19
2. ------------------(1999) 'On the Theoretical Foundations of Orality and Literacy'. Research in African Literatures. Volume 30, Number 2 (Summer).42-65.
Anne C. Klein
The Land Remembers: Living Landscape and Soulful Spirits of the Tibetan Plateau
The Tibetan landscape is famous for its dramatic mountains and endlessly open vistas. For Tibetans however it is not simply a thing of beauty, but an expression and thus a memory of their own past. What constructs from the tradition itself will provide coherent meaning to this powerful narrative of ground and the grounded? . What kind of interiority would look out at the world in this particular way. Is there a logic to those aspects of the Tibetan cultural imagination? I propose that there is such a logic and explore it by investigating several native categories of thought that pertain to the larger category of dynamic energies--the energies of expression and memory. Categories such as life-vitality (la) and wind (rlung) are as important across a wide variety of Tibetan fields of practice and inquiry as they are unlikely up in the mind of a typical Western adventurer in those same fields. I see these as belonging to a larger, overarching category I can refer to as dynamism. This multifaceted dynamism assumes that the relationship of human minds, bodies and cultures, to their landscapes is memorable in ways that writing alone cannot record. Land holds memory because it itself is dynamic and alive; rituals celebrating this aspect of the environment are themselves memories of an ancient culture now in danger of extinction, of being forgotten.
John M. Foley
Memory and Oral Tradition
In this presentation I propose to consider perspectives on memory within and in regard to three oral poetic traditions: ancient Greek, medieval English, and South Slavic. For the two oral-derived traditions, the investigation will consist chiefly of what can be unearthed from within the surviving documents (the poems as they exist in manuscript and the few shards of external commentary that bear on this question). For the modern oral traditions of the Former Yugoslavia I will draw both internal and external insights, depending on the poets' own words both within the actual performances and within conversations held with intermediaries. Instead of the mechanical process of memory envisioned by the Oral-Formulaic Theory, this evidence indicates a reconstructive, malleable process that meshes individual with tradition, idiolect with overall language, and unique expressivity with the resources of a shared, idiomatic register.
Return to conference home page