Academic journal article Ethnologies

Folklore and Literacy: A View from Nova Scotia

Academic journal article Ethnologies

Folklore and Literacy: A View from Nova Scotia

Article excerpt

Cet article decrit un projet-pilote en alphabetisation, base dans un musee, qui s'est deroule a Windsor, en Nouvelle-Ecosse, durant l'automne 1999. L'auteure a coordonne ce projet en collaboration etroite avec un praticien local de l'alphabetisation. L'etude de Windsor faisait partie d'un projet national entrepris par l'Association des musees canadiens, finance par une bourse d'initiative en recherche strategique du CRSHC. Le projet a attire quatre participantes, bien que l'une d'elles l'ait quitte, pour des raisons personnelles, avant d'avoir fini sa recherche. Ces femmes ont choisi des objets comme sujets d'etude et ont recu de l'aide pour les techniques de recherche et de documentation. En tant que discours impliquant des traditions d'expression comportementale et de vision du monde, le folklore joue un role important dans l'alphabetisation. Cet article examine de maniere specifique les interactions entre les participantes, leurs choix de sujets, l'environnement museal, et signale le besoin d'une comprehension des notions de valeur, classe, genre et contextes d'utilisation dans l'evaluation de l'alphabetisation. L'article passe en revue la litterature sur le sujet, plus particulierement les etudes ethnographiques sur l'alphabetisation, en mettant l'accent sur les travaux recents dans les regions atlantiques du Canada. Il discute egalement des aboutissements de cette etude et des orientations futures de ce type de recherche qualitative basee dans une communaute.

This article describes a pilot project in museum based literacy learning that took place in Windsor, Nova Scotia in the autumn of 1999. The author coordinated the project in close consultation with a local literacy practitioner. The Windsor study was part of a national project undertaken by the Canadian Museums Association and funded by a SSHRC Strategic Research Grant Initiative. The project attracted four female participants, although one left before completing her research for personal reasons. The women chose objects as topics for study, and were given assistance with research and documentation techniques. As a discourse involving traditions of expressive behaviour and worldview, folklore plays an important role in literacy education. Specifically, this discussion examines the interactions between the participants, their chosen topics, and the museum environments, and underscores the need for an understanding of value, class, gender and contexts of use in an appreciation of literacy. A review of relevant literature is included, focusing on ethnographic studies of literacy with particular emphasis on recent work in Atlantic Canada. Outcomes of the study and future directions for this kind of community based, qualitative research are also discussed.

As a folklorist, I understand that part of the work of folklore research involves identifying and describing meaningful patterns of experience in everyday life. Ideally, this work at least attempts to balance a sense of the original articulation of those patterns for the individuals and groups who create them with the inevitable influences that the researcher brings to bear on her interpretation. Such standards of practice help ensure that our work is "grounded always in experience--our own and that of the subjects of our study" (Doucette 1997: 24). I also believe that folklore, as the study of traditional expressive cultures however broadly or narrowly defined, makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how people maintain their cultural identities and cope with rapid and profound change on comprehensible local levels. In the midst of a global knowledge economy that seems to have lost perspective on the supply and demand for "data," the importance of the discipline's place in current discourse cannot be overlooked.

Nevertheless, as a social paradigm, the so-called "Information Age" casts up a timely challenge to folklore's conceptual connection to the marginal. In many western societies, technology serves to multiply and diffuse centres of human activity. …

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