Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A World Elsewhere: Orality, Manuscript and Print in Colonial and Post-Colonial Cultures: CFP

An international conference to be held at the Centre for the Book, Cape Town, 2-4 April 2007

Please send abstracts (500 words maximum) or proposals for sessions by 1 September 2006 to Mark Espin, PO Box 15254, Vlaeberg, Cape Town 8018, South Africa; or ideally by e-mail to, and cc to A preliminary programme should be announced by 1 December 2006.

The conference will address a wide range of questions relating to `the history of the book' in colonial and post-colonial contexts. Relevant topics include:

* national and transnational communities of letters;
* alternative public spheres;
* censorship;
* the history of reading and reading theories;
* reviewing and criticism;
* authorship;
* sociologies of the text;
* text and image;
* the economies of cultural prestige;
* media history;
* the cultures of collecting;
* library history;
* literacy;
* oral cultures;
* orality and print;
* printing and publishing history;
* the marketing and distribution of books;
* the electronic text;
* and the future of the book.

As a sub-theme, it is hoped that the conference will address issues relating to the identification, preservation and dissemination of, and access to, Southern African textual culture, at a time when the heritage of the past is threatened and the outlook for the future is uncertain. The purpose is to bring together all stakeholders: academics working in the fields of Textual Studies, Book and Cultural History, the Media, Anthropology, and new and old technologies of the text, archivists, librarians, educationalists, publishers, public administrators, funding bodies and government. It is hoped that special attention will be given to the development of protocols for recording Southern African orature and performance art. The purpose of the conference is to examine the present and to plan for the future: how do we ensure that future generations have access to our past, present and future textual cultural heritage? We would welcome the participation of international delegates whose experience elsewhere could inform our deliberations.

Through an engagement with questions of identifying and maintaining material resources, and enabling access to the continuing Southern African textual heritage, the conference seeks to investigate a broader set of theoretical themes around texts and textuality. Have particular configurations of South African society produced unique understandings of what texts are and how they might be used? Have there been styles of reading, interpretation and textual use in the past that have dropped from view? (For example, early African Christianity has produced interesting forms of divinely inspired reading and writing.) What kinds of different relationships, institutions and communities have been built up in and through texts, and in what ways are they peculiarly South African? Are there analogues elsewhere? How might we understand such practices, and in what ways should they influence protocols for the maintenance of, and access to, cultural heritages?


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