International Conference
Rice University, Houston, Texas
October 10-12, 2003

Sponsor: Rice University Center for the Study of Cultures
Conference Directors:Elias Bongmba (
Werner H. Kelber (

The Rice Conference is the third of a series of three annual conferences dealing with issues of orality and literacy that have been organized under the auspices of the University of Natal, South Africa (Jonathan Draper), the Free University of Brussels (Baudouin Decharneux) and now Rice University (Werner Kelber). In August 2001 this series of conferences was launched at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa under the topic "Orality and Literacy I: Colonialism". The second conference was convened in October 2002 at the Free University of Brussels and entitled "Orality and Literacy II: The World of the Spirits."

The Rice conference will commence on Friday, Oct. 10th, at 7 pm with a keynote address by Prof. Jan Assmann, University of Heidelberg. The evening will be concluded with a reception. Saturday morning, Oct. 11, will be reserved for presentations. In all probability we plan to schedule concurrent tracts of lectures. The afternoon will be taken up by a round-table discussion. A scholar of prominence will be asked to make a 40 min presentation to the whole conference. It is followed by two brief responses. After the break, all the participants of the conference will be asked engage in a discussion. The evening will once again be taken up by concurrent tracts of presentations.

Likewise, Sunday, Oct. 12, morning and afternoon will be devoted to lectures. The conference will close with a dinner. At the conclusion of the dinner we plan to present an oral performance of some kind. Negotiations are still under way.

Memory and remembering are presently much in vogue in the humanities and social science discourses. We experience the revival of a topos that has played a principal civilizing role in human culture. A steadily growing body of disciplinary and interdisciplinary studies has developed around memory. In view of this scholarly development, one cannot escape the impression that memory has risen to the status of paradigmatic significance in the humanities and social sciences. MNEMOSYNE is the topic of everyone, and no one can claim monopoly on her.

Recent work on memory has interfaced with orality-literacy studies in fruitful ways. Oral cultures assign memory certain roles and functions in the context of mobilizing cognitive processes and techniques of knowledge retention. Subsequent media, ranging from chirographic to typographic to electronic communication, reconfigure knowledge management and revise modes of memory’s individual and collective arbitrations.

In keeping with the global mission of the Rice Center for the Study of Cultures, and in deference to MNEMOSYNE, the goddess of imagination and memory, and her all-inclusive embrace, papers from all cultural settings are welcome. In this spirit, we extend a special invitation to colleagues from Africa and Asia. As far as the Western tradition is concerned, papers dealing with antiquity, the Middle Ages, modernity and post-holocaust studies will all be considered. Moreover, we take orality-literacy in the broadest sense of media studies or technologies of communications. That is to say, we ask for consideration of some interconnectedness between memorial practices and communications media, be they orality, chirography, typography, electronic media or artistic representations. Topics may range widely from mnemotechnics to historiography as a memory issue, from testimonies to acts of violence to holocaust remembrances, from memory’s contribution to national and ethnic identity to the ethics of remembering, from memory and imagination to memory and meditation, from lieux de mémoire to artifacts as memorial representations, from oral poetry and epics to repetition and recollection as moments of memory, to mention but a few items. We shall try to group presentations according to cultural provenance and/or topicality.

Please submit abstract of no more than 200 words to either Elias, or Werner,
Deadline for abstracts: June 1
Notification of acceptance: June 15
Please include two bibliographical items that are crucially relevant to your paper.



Preregistration Deadline: October 1
Preregistration Fee: $40.00
To preregister, please fill out and submit the preregistration form. If you are based in the U.S., we ask you also to mail your payment in the form of a check drawn on a U.S. bank, to arrive at: Rice University, Center for the Study of Cultures – MS 620, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, Texas 77251-1892. Participants outside the U.S. may pay the preregistration fee on arrival (cash in U.S. currency or check drawn on U.S. bank).
Late Registration (after October 1): $50.


As is usual in U.S. hotels, the quoted rates do not include taxes and breakfast. All three facilities are within walking distance to Rice University.
The Warwick (Rate: $109 per night plus tax)
5701 S. Main Street, Houston, Texas 77005
Tel: 713 526 1991, Fax: 713 639 4545
Crowne Plaza Hotel (Rate: $79 per night plus tax)
6701 S. Main Street, Houston, Texas 77005
Tel.: 713 797 1110, Fax: 713 796 1186
Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites (Rate: $69 per night plus tax)
6800 S. Main Street, Houston, Texas 77005
Tel.: 713 528 7744, Fax: 713 528 297


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