Hot Literacy in Cold Societies: A Comparative Study of the Sacred Value of Writing

Comparative Studies in Society and History, 33(2): 225-254, 1991

25 Pages Posted: 1 May 2019

See all articles by Ronald Niezen

Ronald Niezen

McGill University, Department of Anthropology

Date Written: March 31, 1991

Abstract

The argument that the presence or absence of widespread literacy the central criterion to distinguish "savage" from "domesticated" society, presented by Goody in a number of works (1968, 1977, 1986, 1987) makes close associations between alphabetic literacy and the growth of knowledge and between restricted literacy and traditional societies. This essay challenges these associations by presenting material from medieval Europe, in which the milieu of restricted literacy is creative, and from an Islamic reform movement in West Africa, in which widespread literacy does not lead to criticism or the revision of basic religious tenets.

Keywords: Literacy; Lollards; Islamic reform; Mali

Suggested Citation

Niezen, Ronald, Hot Literacy in Cold Societies: A Comparative Study of the Sacred Value of Writing (March 31, 1991). Comparative Studies in Society and History, 33(2): 225-254, 1991, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3363005 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3363005

Ronald Niezen (Contact Author)

McGill University, Department of Anthropology ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
Canada

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