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Berry, Keith 2001 Becoming literate in an emerging literate society : a case study of the Abun People of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, PhD Dissertation, School of Arts and Education, Latrobe University (Bendigo Campus).


Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding literacy and culture
  3. Research approach and process
  4. Uses and functions of literacy in Abun society
  5. Life and literacy: Shabur Yeblo; Dormin Yesawen; Wonja Soleman Yekese (Yenggamkok); Ratu Yewen
  6. Culture shaping literacy
  7. Literacy shaping culture
  8. Conclusions and recommendations
  9. Appendices -- Bibliography

How do people in minority groups in remote parts of the world become literate? How do they use literacy? How does literacy shape their culture, and how does their culture shape literacy in their social context? What can be learned from considering these questions to help inform literacy provision in small minority groups? A case study of the Abun people in the province of Irian Jaya, Indonesia is used to ask and begin to find answers to these questions. The Abun people are a small group of some 3,500 people. They have a distinct language, and culturally, although there are many similarities with other groups in Papua, they have some distinctive features. The research has spent more than eight years living in the area since 1986 studying the language and culture. With this depth of background, complemented by specific research involving interviews and concentrated observation, these research questions are addressed. The theoretical framework used is based upon recent trends in the study of literacy which identify a sociocultural approach as more appropriate. The focal point of the research is a group of life stories wherein four individuals reflect upon their experiences, and, in particular, how they became literate, the way they use literacy and why they use it. This, together with a more general description of the uses and functions of literacy in Abun society, form the basis for establishing pertinent sociocultural categories that emerge as significant in Abun people becoming literate. Themes and patterns in the areas of notions of self, the individual in relationship, shared ways of thinking, gender, and social setting are discussed. Finally, conclusions are drawn as to how these sociocultural categories can be applied to inform literacy provision.

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