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Anthropology of Writing vs. Anthropology of Literacy

Conférence de Grzegorz Godlewski (Université de Varsovie, Institut de la culture polonaise)

par Maryse Cournollet - publié le

Le 3 mai 2011
A 10 h
A l’équipe Anthropologie de l’écriture du IIAC
7 rue Huysmans - Paris 6e
Code d’accès : A9657- interphone EHESS

Contact :
Nicole Le Toux Courriel
tél. :


The anthropology of writing explores the area of texts and other written forms, with a special focus on their functions and uses people make of them in particular contexts. That is why they should be considered not as isolated units but rather as parts of processes of human actions, as “links in concerted human activity” (Malinowski). But considering texts in terms of practices one should be aware that all language (writing) practices are at the same time cultural practices. It means that they are generated not only by the “logic of writing” but also by different “cultural logics”. So, aside from “pure” writing practices, there are also practices that are not constituted but merely mediated by writing ; and there are practices generated by the “literate mind” that may not use writing at all (literacy practices). This statement implies a much wider research area whose limits as a matter of fact approximate the limits of a culture. An extended notion of “writing”, that might be replaced by “literacy”, constitutes this way an “anthropology of literacy” that is no more a part of but rather a kind of the anthropology of (literate) culture, one of its possible perspectives. As research on all sorts of practices, including literate ones, requires non-textual approach, the challenging task the anthropology of literacy faces is to recognize and overcome the “literacy (textual) bias” in cognition that is a result of advanced literacy and at the same time the main obstacle to considering practices as practices.