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WRITING THE SELF IN RURAL MALI: DOMESTIC ARCHIVES AND GENRES OF PERSONAL WRITING

Abstract
ABSTRACT

In a comparative perspective, literacy has been closely associated with techniques of the self and with the emergence of modern subjectivities. But what happens when literacy is developed without genres such as diary keeping being widespread? Scrutinizing grassroots practices, this article demonstrates that even people who are not confronted with established forms of self-writing engage with literacy in ways that bear an imprint of their lives and subjectivities. Drawing on an ethnographic study in one village in southern Mali, it sets a socio-historical background where writing practices arise primarily as responses to the pressure of rural management. Yet the local discourses on the value of writing are suffused with notions of privacy. The article focuses on the unstable but shared practice of keeping a notebook for farming as well personal notations. Through a detailed analysis of two notebooks, it advocates for a set of distinctions between the individual, the private and the self that helps disentangle the issue of writing and self. This leads to a contrasted view of the local engagements with literacy. The question of the crystallization of notebook keeping as a genre remains open.

RÉSUMÉ

Dans une perspective comparatiste, l’écriture a été étroitement associée au développement de techniques de soi et à l’émergence de formes modernes de la subjectivité. Mais qu'en est-il quand l'alphabétisation n'est pas accompagnée par la diffusion de genres tels que celui du journal ? Cet article se propose d'examiner des pratiques d’écriture locales qui se sont développées en l'absence de formes établies de l’écriture de soi ; même dans ce cas, les pratiques d’écriture qui émergent marquent de leur empreinte les trajectoires des scripteurs et modèlent leur subjectivité. S'appuyant sur une enquête ethnographique dans un village du sud du Mali, cet article présente ce contexte socio-historique où les pratiques d’écriture sont d'abord des réponses aux demandes des institutions en charge de l'encadrement rural. Pourtant, selon les discours recueillis localement l'intérêt de l’écrit est d'abord d'ordre privé. Cet article s'intéresse plus particulièrement à une pratique peu stabilisée mais partagée, celle de tenir un cahier pour les activités agricoles comme pour des notations personnelles. L'analyse détaillée de deux cahiers permet de faire ressortir la nécessité d'une série de distinctions entre l'individuel, le privé et le soi, qui permet de déplier la question du lien entre écrit et rapport à soi selon ces différentes dimensions. Cela ouvre à une analyse des engagements dans l’écrit dans leur diversité. La possible cristallisation de la pratique de tenir un cahier en un genre reste ouverte.

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References
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Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
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