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.