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Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies - BIGSAS

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Krauß, Rebekka

Research Interests:

Social Anthropology

Geographical Area:


Current Project:

Learning beyond the Classroom in Bolivia – Illiterate Adults in El Alto/ Bolivia and Nuremberg/ Germany coping with litered enviroment

While literacy continues to be one of the most successful models of modernity traveling around the globe and promoted by supranational and international institutions, illiteracy is still perceived as something backward, which has to be eradicated. Literacy in contrast is related to citizenship, full participation, autonomy, and self-enhance and is defined as a human right (Drange 2010: 120f; Uría Fernández 2005:7; Las Dignas 2001: 18,44)..

Since the end of the 90th, the New Literacy studies questioned the dichotomy view by criticizing the dividing of societies in literate and non-literate ones (Goody 1968; Street 2013). This approach understood literacy not any more as an autonomous technical skill, but something embedded within the social: the concept of literacy practices refers to cultural and social meaning. By this way, many different kinds of dealing with literacy are identified and recognized (Street 2013). Furthermore, critical literacy studies challenged the idea of elite related literacy and education systems, proposing methods, which consider power structures on the on hand and the learners’ reality and needs on the other. Conceptualizing e.g. certain literacy practices in South America as hybrid practices includes the idea of interweaved different language and script practices (La Piedra 2009; Zavala 2002: 191).). However, in urban contexts, demands for literacy competences are high, and the organization of own and family life implies dealing with those demands. Knowledge on those practices is still a research desideratum. Furthermore, based on the comparative research design of the cluster study it will be possible to contribute to identification of traveling global models on learning practices beyond formal, academic literacy. 

In Bolivia, government and UN-data suggest that the country is free from illiteracy– at least after the national literacy campaign from 2008 – 2009. However, this is highly questioned, and some studies indicate the very low level of reading and writing competences of campaign participants (Drange 2010; Stefanoni 2011; Hernani-Limarino et al. 2015; Valencia & Villaroel 2015). Most of the studies related to illiteracy in Bolivia are quantitative or working with a functional approach. Conceptualizations beyond the dichotomy of il/-literacy and methods including the view of illiterates and low literates are seldom or not considered. 

Based on this background, the dissertation project aims to find out how people with low formal education deal in a highly literate environment, how do they learn and acquire new knowledge and skills for which purposes. How do they participate politically, economically, socially in their respective urban environments? Which role do they assign to literacy within those activities?  It will be also important to identify and understand different modes of learning, as e.g. own activities or network support.

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