The other diversity: multiple histories of appropriation of writing.
This paper suggests that, along with linguistic diversity, we should
also consider the diversity of uses of literacy. Like many other scholars,
I take issue with the evolutionary model (originally sustained by Jack
Goody and David Olson) that traces the development of literacy from orality
to alphabetic writing, and attributes to this final stage a
series of social and cognitive consequences. Following research in different
contexts, it is possible to conceive instead of a multiplicity of histories
of appropriation of writing. I refer to several recent studies on literacy
in marginal contexts, as well as to my own field experience in indigenous
communities in Mexico, to draw attention to several aspects of this alternative
model, through which particular histories are linked to a number of different
ways of appropriating writing. Finally I argue that if we conceptualize
writing as a tool, we may miss some forms of appropriation that appear
when we regard writing as a cultural practice, embedded in everyday interaction,
in a variety of contexts in each locality.