Bemba Myth and Ritual: The Impact of Literacy on an Oral Culture

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P. Lang, 1983 - Foreign Language Study - 197 pages
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By focusing on the differences between an oral society and a literate one, this study exemplifies the usefulness of contemporary media studies in analyzing cultural change in Africa. It also adds a distinctive chapter to the cultural history of the Bemba as a formally oral-aural people. Hearing is their primary cognitive sense and the physical properties of sound significantly affect the Bemba worldview. Their charter myth, initiation rites, traditional authorities and tales of spirits embody a network of central religious metaphors and limit-symbols, each of which is signalized by its acoustic characteristics.
Literacy is restructuring Bemba consciousness and society, making vision the primary sense and written codes, not tribal personalities, the basis of government. Literacy de-animates cognitional objects, develops language for hermeneutical precision and frees individuals from the tribal needs to remember and conform. As more Bemba convert to Christianity and interiorize writing technology, elements of their oral religion ironically become more dependent for survival on acculturation with these literate forces.

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Orality and Religion
An Extended Example of Bemba LimitSymbols

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