Reading Worlds Seen and Unseen: The Role of Literacy in Diasporic African Spiritual Traditions in the United States Open Access

Pogue, Tiffany Denise (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/kw52j8619?locale=en
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Abstract

Reading Worlds Seen and Unseen:

The Role of Literacy in Diasporic African Spiritual Traditions in the United States

By Tiffany D. Pogue

Despite literacy scholars' clarion call for moving beyond limited, and limiting, understandings of the literacy construct, contemporary educational research still tends toward studies based on mainstream literacy practices and traditional school settings. Meanwhile, those Black cultural and literacy traditions that (1) lie beyond the typical in-school setting and (2) furthest away from White dominant cultural practices are so severely marginalized in literacy research that educators presently have difficulty locating them in the literature. As a result, one also finds it extremely difficult to locate literature related to the role of literacy in the practices of Diasporic African Spiritual Traditions (DASTs) in the United States. To respond to this gap in educational literature, this dissertation employs the ethnography of communication and New Literacy Studies as twinned theoretical frameworks to answer the following research questions:

1) In what ways has literacy been used in the practice of DASTs in the United States?

2) How do practitioners of DASTs in the US define and understand literacy within the context of these traditions?

3) In what ways might DAST communities constitute African Diaspora Participatory Literacy Communities (ADPLCs) (Fisher, 2003)?

Semi-structured qualitative interviews, general historical methods including archival work, and instrument-based participant observation have been employed to engage these questions and reveal that DAST communities both record and decode information through a variety of forms including color, rhythm, liturgical structure, syllabic text, and material culture in order to transmit ideas about cultural themes and ontology. The strategies for such literacy are by design ambiguous in nature and interpreted only through an informed consideration of context.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Chapter One: Remembering, Reordering, and Rewriting History………………………..1

Purpose…………………………………………………………………………….3

Research Questions………………………………………………………………..4

Significance………………………………………………………………………..4

Theoretical Frameworks…………………………………………………………..7

Organization of the Study………………………………………………………..10

Chapter Two: Literature Review: Establishing the Context for the Study……………..12

Living Traditions that Refuse to Die…………………………………………….13

Holy Counterstories in (Un)Written Texts………………………………………14

Education, Literacy and DASTs…………………………………………………16

Chapter Three: Methods: Towards a Holistic Collection and Analysis of Data………..29

Definition of Key Term: Literacy……………………………………………….29 Setting and Scope………………………………………………………………...30 Participants……………………………………………………………………….31 Data Collection…………………………………………………………………..33 Instrumentation…………………………………………………………..34 Data Analysis…………………………………………………………………….34 Historical Context………………………………………………………………..35 Validity and Reliability…………………………………………………………..36 Positionality……………………………………………………………...37

Chapter Four: Did You Hear What She Wrote? Orality, Literacy, and Embodied Texts……………………………………………………………………………………...40

Chapter Five: Reading, ‘Riting, & Ritual: Literacy in African Spiritual Contexts…….61

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in Spiritual Spaces………………………………63

The Crossroads as Context……………………………………………………….64 Only When You're Ready……………………………………………………….71

Chapter Six: Is There Room for Spirit in ADPLCs?........................................................80

Orality, Flexibility, and Intergenerational Emphasis…………………………….80

Flexibility and Overlap in ADPLCs……………………………………………..82 Not Just Flesh: Spirit as Community Member…………………………………..87 Reciprocity in Community……………………………………………………….93 No Ile is an Island………………………………………………………………..95 Community Reputation and Acceptance……………………………………….100

Chapter Seven: Discussion of Findings, Scholarship at the Crossroads……………….103

Findings at a Glance…………………………………………………………….103 Defining Literacy from the Ground Up………………………………………...106

Applying What Was Found in a Contemporary Classroom Setting……………107

Where From Here?...............................................................................................112 References………………………………………………………………………………115

APPENDIX A: Glossary of DAST-related terms……………………………………...130

APPENDIX B: AADF…………………………………………………………………132

APPENDIX C: Notes on Methodology: Dancing Between Circles and Lines: Academic Responsibility and Spiritual Commitment……………………………………………..133

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