Positive Parenting: An Ethnographic Study of Storytelling for Socialization of Children in Ethiopia

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In this article, I discuss how the tradition of intergenerational storytelling provides parents with contexts for the socialization of children. My discussion draws on observations of family storytelling events and interviews with parents and children among the Guji-Oromo in southern Ethiopia. Through ethnographic analysis, I show that, among the Guji-Oromo, storytelling provides occasions for positive communication between parents and children, which in turn are effective in the process of socialization. I present three socialization outcomes that parents seek to achieve through storytelling: cautioning children, motivating children to learn from adults, and heightening children’s respect for the value of adult supervision. I also discuss how these practices empower children to fit their actions to accepted norms and values. Parents among the Guji-Oromo perform and interpret folktales with the purpose of entertaining and educating children, and I argue that this process is a child-friendly means of socialization.

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... In Africa continent, one of the Yorubas' principal activity has also been storytelling, which is usually shared after communal meals (Sharpe 2008). The Guji-Oromo people of eastern Africa, have integrated "Duriduri" as storytelling that communicates skills, norms, and values held by their communities (Jirata 2014). There, a child asks his grandmother, "Akko [Grandma], tell us a story" (167) and adults perform as storytellers, artists, performers, and educators. ...
... (Garlough 2013). If you think about it, storytelling encourages family members to interconnect and, then, pass down these knowledge and values (Hutton et al. 2008;Jirata 2014;Nava 2017). "In Africa, when an old man dies, a library burns," said Amadou Ampaté Bâ, when UNESCO declared the African Oral Tradition to be an Intangible Heritage of Humanity (Castellano 2019). ...
This article is a story told to a young boy by his grandmother. Once upon a time, there existed a place where listening to stories was a way of life. This happened in all places around the world: Lakota and Navajo tribes of North America; Yoruba and Guji-Oromo in Africa; Estonian or Basque Country in Europe … But suddenly, the titan Mr. Neoliberalism displaced the elders: casting its shadow and silencing places. Economic production became all-consuming and human beings used almost all their energies pursuing it. And then, hope emerged as intergenerational performance. Some communities participating in this type of performance – Reminiscence Theatre and Verbatim Theatre, for example – recovered the collective power of storytelling to educate both the young and old about values, culture, identities and history … Storytelling invites ways to know who we are, where we come from, and where we belong: storytelling as hope, storytelling as a dream, storytelling as a magic space where imagining other realities is possible.
... Young children love to hear stories from adults, which means that they also pay great attention to this form of play in social interaction with their siblings. Similarly, riddles are the treasured form of play with young children and child-friendly way of meaning making not only in Guji people but also among African societies in general (Jirata, 2014;Schafer et al., 2004;Staden and Watson, 2007). Children acquire knowledge of both forms of play through interaction with siblings and participation in neighborhood social events. ...
In this article, I address African indigenous knowledge of early childhood development by discussing young children’s cultural spaces of care, play and learning among the Guji people of Ethiopia. I analyze practices in the cultural spaces of young children and show how participatory community-based care and learning are pivotal in the tradition of early childhood development in the Guji people. Furthermore, I present the features of play and learning traditions in which young children are social actors in sustaining social interaction and stability in their neighborhoods. My discussion is based on data drawn from 10 months ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the rural villages of the Guji people.
This article examines how Oromo-speaking children in Ethiopia construct social values in multiple ways through their participation in storytelling and the subsequent meaning-making discussions. By presenting children as actors in the re-contextualization of folktales, the article argues that participation in a folkloric performance is not a mere play practice for children, but is a social and artistic forum through which they acquire survival skills and grow connected to values of their society. This indicates that in the processes of storytelling and meaning-making, children draw an analogical relationship between imagined situations in folklore and living realities in their local environment. The article is based on data generated through ten months of ethnographic fieldwork with children among an Oromo-speaking society in Ethiopia.
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Recent years have seen increasing efforts to integrate narrative theory with developments in cognitive science (e.g., Herman 2003; Keen 2007; Palmer 2004). Thus far these efforts have been pursued most vigorously by narratologists who recognize the value of creating intellectual bridges between narratology and cognitive science. My own experiences as a developmental psychologist have convinced me that psychological research on narrative—in particular, research on children’s narrative activities and their acquisition and development of narrative skills—should be paying equally careful attention to models, trends, and ideas in the domain of narratology. To highlight the potential value of intellectual cross-fertilization between narratology and developmental studies of narrative, I present the interpretive and sociocultural approach I have developed over the years in my research on the narratives of preschool children, outlining some of the concrete analyses that have emerged from this long-term research project. The approach I have sought to develop emphasizes the need for understanding children’s narrative activity as a form of symbolic action linking the construction of reality with the formation of identity; it attempts to integrate the formal analysis of linguistic structure with the elucidation of structures of meaning; and it attempts to situate children’s narrative activity in the sociocultural context of their everyday interaction, their group life, and their cultural world. In what follows, I first explain how I got involved in analyzing the stories of young children and why I concluded that the dominant approaches to narrative analysis in developmental psychology were inadequate to address important issues raised by this research. Next, I explicate the approach I have developed and illustrate some of its applications. I believe narratologists will recognize significant parallels between this approach (and some of its motivating concerns) and approaches emerging in contemporary narratology, especially in work informed by the idea of “storyworlds.” I conclude by exploring some similarities and differences between my own developmental approach to narrative inquiry and these “postclassical” narratological approaches, suggesting why cross-fertilization between these two enterprises is both possible and desirable. It may be useful to provide a brief account of how I got involved in narrative research and the challenges I encountered along the way—so that I can explain how my interests came to converge with themes and approaches in narratology, both classical and postclassical. My first research project on children’s narratives was a collaborative analysis of stories spontaneously produced by children over the course of an entire academic year in the four-year-olds’ classroom in a university child care program. We used an unusual method in our study. My collaborator, the head teacher of the class, had introduced in her classroom a storytelling/story-acting activity pioneered by the teacher-researcher Vivian Paley (1990). During this daily activity, three or four children each day had the opportunity to dictate stories to their teacher, who transcribed each story as the child told it, with minimal intervention. Then later on that day, during large-group time, the child-author and the children whom he or she chose acted out these stories for the benefit of the entire class. These stories were a unique and rich source of data that immediately captured my attention—and that have continued to be the focus of my research up to now. Several features of this elicitation method make it unique. The typical way that children’s stories have been elicited in psychological research is by asking children individually to tell a story to an experimenter who listens to and tape-records it; more rarely, either the experimenter or the child writes the story down. Children are often asked to tell a story based on a wordless picture book or on a shorter sequence of pictures, or to retell a story the experimenter told them, or to finish a story that the experimenter started; they are much more rarely asked to tell a story of their own creation. Also, the usual setting for the story elicitation is either a university laboratory or a quiet place outside the child’s classroom (see, e.g., Nelson 1996; Nicolopoulou 1997a; Yussen...
Storytelling empowers children to engage in discussions; explore ideas about power, respect, community, fairness, equality, and justice; and help frame their understanding of complex ethical issues within a society. In Life Lessons through Storytelling, Donna Eder interviews elementary students and presents their responses to stories from different cultures. Using Aesop's fables and Kenyan and Navajo storytelling traditions as models for classroom use, Eder demonstrates the value of a cross-cultural approach to teaching through storytelling, while providing deep insights into the social psychology of learning.
Background Before the 1990s, an individual or medical model dominated educational research methodology with respect to younger children: the subjects of the research were usually considered untrustworthy sources of information. A subsequent shift towards an ecological model has focused on the child's perspective: however, Lewis and Lindsay have described the development of methods for conducting research with children as slow.Purpose This paper examines how storytelling can be used as a method of collecting authentic and revealing research data from children. The method is suggested as a valuable way in which to gain insights into children's discourse, and is used in this paper in relation to children's discourse about reading.Sample, design and methods The storytelling method was initially trialled in one school with 36 children aged between 5 and 11 years. The storytelling interview was then used in case studies over a period of a year in three schools, with a total of 88 7- and 8-year-old children. During the interviews, children were asked to tell a story entitled ‘The child who didn't like reading’. Systematic content analysis was undertaken to identify emergent cultural norms and models in the stories. Information on the children's reading practices, and their observations on reading, was also collected for the purposes of triangulation.Results The children's storytelling gave access to their cultural models of reading. It was found that the stories demonstrated sufficient triangulation with the other data about the children's reading practices to support a sociocultural production of the children's discourse.Conclusions Storytelling can provide a useful and credible method of collecting research data from children. It may be especially useful with poor readers as there are no literacy demands, and in this respect, affords socially inclusive research.
I have always disliked the term "storytelling." It is a makeshift locution, closely resembling the words George Orwell created in his dystopia Nineteen Eighty-Four to exemplify the ultrapractical, dehumanized vocabulary he called "Newspeak"—words like "crimethinking" to mean "harboring any politically incorrect opinion" or "bellyfeeling" to mean "having any visceral, emotional, or intuitive response." I can understand, however, why a simpler, more evocative word than "storytelling" did not evolve in the English language (or any other language I have investigated, for that matter) to designate the face-to-face communication of a tale. After all, what we call "storytelling" encompasses so much that it defies an easy label. The "telling" part of the term touches on its most manifest aspect; but it also includes listening, imagining, caring, judging, reading, adapting, creating, observing, remembering, and planning. Above all, storytelling is a unique educational process. Most modern commentators on storytelling tend to focus on the content of stories—cultural backgrounds, behaviors modeled by the characters (at least from the perspective of twentieth-century adult critics), decision-making patterns, psychodramatic plot events, moral messages, or narrative devices. For an excellent discussion of the educational aspects and possibilities of storytelling content, I recommend Bruno Bettleheim's The Uses of Enchantment. What is especially valuable about storytelling, however, is not the cognitive and structural elements of the stories themselves, but the dynamic learning experience that the occasion of storytelling makes possible. I would like to put aside any discussion of the informational, consolational, and therapeutic possibilities of storytelling material and focus on the particular advantages of the act of storytelling as an instructional medium. I have organized these advantages into three basic groups (an ironic nod to the "three" symbolism that pervades the content of storytelling tales); and, in accordance with my thesis, I generally refer to the participant in storytelling—listener or teller—as a "student" rather than a "child." Although storytelling is inevitably associated with children, its pleasures and benefits are enjoyed by people of all ages. The first, and most important, advantage of storytelling is that it encourages one human being to reach another human being in a direct and positive manner. Locally, this social exchange involves a specific teller impressing a specific listener; universally, it involves a chain of people sharing a similar experience, with each individual listener-teller adding his or her own contribution to that experience. In an era that is sorely pressed with the problem of how to instill ethical values in the individual and how to connect the individual to the common-weal, storytelling is rapidly gaining attention as a uniquely humane mode of communication as Anne Pellowski's The World of Storytelling and The Story Experience indicate. Within the necessarily artificial climate of a classroom environment, storytelling is alive, intimate, and personally responsible in a way that the majority of contemporary educational processes are not. In fact, it can easily be claimed that no other educational process comes as naturally to our species. Throughout humankind's preliterate history, storytelling remained the preeminent instructional strategy. By casting information into story form, ancient instructors accomplished several purposes: they rendered that information more entertaining and memorable (for themselves as well as their pupils); they made that information more relevant to their pupils' lives, because it was already grounded in a recognizably human context; and they expressed themselves not simply as experts but as creative, living beings, which helped their pupils to understand, trust, and emulate them more effectively. Cognitive scientists are now telling us that we continue to bear the legacy of this preliterate, aural-dominant method of learning, not just psychically but biologically. The primary learning centers of the brain developed alongside the areas that facilitate hearing; and ample evidence is accumulating that many of the basic neurological programs our brains evolved to process instructional data are better adapted (or solely adapted) to stimuli reception from the ears rather than from the eyes (see for example Judith Hooper and Dick Teresi, The Three-Pound Universe and Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind). Although this field of inquiry is still highly speculative, there is little doubt that hearing triggers brain activity...
Although the educational value of African oral traditions, particularly folktales, has been discussed widely in social studies of children, education and folklore, riddling is not commonly investigated as a part of children’s everyday social practice. In this article, I present riddling as a part of children’s expressive culture, through which they play together and learn about their local environment. I generated the data through ten months of ethnographic fieldwork among Guji people in southern Ethiopia. Based on analyses of the times and locations of this activity, as well as the social interaction involved, I argue that children perform riddling in order to entertain themselves and to learn from their immediate social and natural environment through discrete peer networks.
Maria Tatar has searched out parallel didactic trends in early children's literature and European folktales. With great ease she crosses centuries and national boundaries in tracing recurring patterns of virtues and vices in educational tracts, folktales, fantasies, classical mythology, and the Bible, as well as in the works of Shakespeare, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Working on the premise that the history of children's literature has suffered from an unusually cruel streak, one that especially affects women and children, she singles out "moral correctives" in selected works of James Janeway, John Bunyan, Jane and Anne Taylor, Mrs. Sherwood, Carlo Collodi, Heinrich Hoffmann, Hans Christian Andersen, and Lewis Carroll and then looks for corresponding trends in contemporaneous folktales. Didactic patterns in folktales have become more prominent in recent centuries, Tatar claims, because the oral tradition has been supplanted by printed texts intended for children. Individual folktale collectors supposedly also rewrote folktales in accordance with prevailing social and educational concepts, as well as their personal likes or dislikes, thereby not only eliminating coarse, bawdy, erotic, and incestuous scenes to protect children, according to Tatar, but also emphasizing acts of cruelty, violence, brutal intimidation, bigotry, and coercion, mainly to utilize the tales as "lessons" (64–65). An increasing concern with productive socialization led collectors to intensify an already existing gender bias. Male protagonists usually reaped rewards for such virtues as humility, compassion, and faithfulness, yet they often escaped punishment for crimes committed in the course of adventurous actions. Female protagonists, in contrast, were not rewarded for the same virtues, though these were often taken for granted as preconditions for marriage, which was usually their only chance to move to a higher class. Self-willed or adventure-some actions by women were condemned. If women failed in obedience, humility, diligence, or endurance, they were chastised, often having to sacrifice their self-esteem by assuming a servile attitude, like Catskin or Allerleirauh. In contemplating the "seven sins" of female protagonists and their gruesome consequences, Tatar traces this gender bias in such works as a tale of Boccaccio, Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, and an eighteenth-century manual on how to subdue unruly wives. In European folktale variants she examines similar patterns of punishment associated with female disobedience, pride, selfishness, greed, gluttony, and unfaithfulness. After establishing some common sociocultural attitudes toward stubborn and self-willed women through the ages, she concludes that women were treated cruelly and coercively because men considered them to be "children" and inferiors (105–7, 135). In a chapter entitled "Beauties and Beasts," Tatar pays special attention to the themes of female obedience and self-denial. She uses the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius's version and a number of folktale variants on this theme as a testing ground, observing that de Beaumont's "Beauty and the Beast," the Grimms' "Singing, Spring Lark," and the Norwegian "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" show a shift in emphasis toward didacticism. Whereas the myth dwells on the theme of female jealousy, the folktale variants emphasize the sin of female curiosity and state more explicitly a demand for modesty, obedience, endurance, compassion, and complete subordination. Here Tatar employs feminist and sociocultural interpretations of the theme by Carol Gilligan, Torberg Lundell, Jack Zipes, and others (260). According to Tatar, adulterous women are punished with special cruelty in folktales. To illustrate her point, she refers to two passages describing the death penalty for adulterous females, one from "The Three Snake Leaves" in the collection of the Brothers Grimm and one from "The Lion's Grass" in Italo Calvino's anthology of Italian folktales. In the first tale, the unfaithful woman is "sent out to sea with her accomplice in a boat filled with holes," and in the second the woman is condemned in the following terms: "Hang her first, then burn her, and then throw her ashes to the wind" (118). Even the most skeptical reader might lean toward accepting Tatar's thesis that folktales are biased against women, for hardly a folktale in the world depicts an equally cruel punishment for an adulterous male. What she does not mention, however, is that in both cases the women committed not...
This paper is part of an ethnographic study of storytelling in a school in which I spent five months in a grade four/five classroom. There I listened for all the stories told over the course of the day. Children talked about movies and being sick. They traded rumors and hearsay about local events such as a road accident or “the sniper in Washington.” Their teacher, Linda Stender, also told stories. She shared her experiences, illustrated a point, explained a math problem, or just got attention for a subject. Linda Stender is a “professional” storyteller. She was a member of the Vancouver Storyteller's Organization and attended storytelling festivals, workshops, and conferences. In her classroom, about once a week or less, she gathered the children and told them a story from memory.
Oku adults have a straightforward rationalization for the existence of folktales: the frightening cautionary tales of the child-eating monster K∂ηgaaηgu serve to warn children not to go to the fields or to stray too far from the house without their parents. But this rationalization is belied by the fact that adults in this chiefdom of the Cameroon Grassfields do not tell folktales to children. Rather, folktales are most often told by children amongst each other, with no adult involvement, and they are consequently learned by younger children from older ones. This is an unusual situation in West Africa, where the norm is for adults to tell folktales to children. For all we know, adult-to-child storytelling may have been the normal practice in the Grassfields in the past, but if it ever was, this practice has now passed into desuetude, and today adults look with mild scorn on folktales (f∂ngaanen, ∂mgaanen pl.) and generally remain aloof during storytelling sessions. Storytelling in the Grassfields is therefore a child-structured form of play in Schwartzman's (1978) sense: it is an activity mediated by children without adult input. Prior to the introduction of schooling in the Grassfields, children used to be made to guard the crops against birds and monkeys, an activity that left them to their own devices in the fields for long periods of the day (Argenti 2001; see also Fortes 1938; Raum 1940). In some cases, children actually slept in small shelters that they built in the fields, and they would consequently stay away from their homes and adult supervision for days at a time. It was in this context, away from the censorious gaze of adults, that children's illicit masking activities developed (Argenti 2001). It may also be in this context that children were able to indulge in prolonged bouts of storytelling without fear of reproof by adults, in whose eyes children should be seen but not heard. Today, children no longer guard the fields, and they have therefore taken to telling their folktales at home.
With her 1976 book Oral Literature in Africa, Ruth Finnegan almost single-handedly created the field of ethnography of language. Now, Finnegan has gathered and updated a selection of her best work on oral literature, performance, and the creative use of language in Africa, along with several new essays that broaden and extend her ideas. The Oral and Beyond looks simultaneously backwards and forwards, reviewing and critiquing the achievements of scholarship on African oral literature, revisiting issues of perennial contention, and highlighting some of the most interesting new ideas and approaches in the field. Exploring such fundamental questions as how texts and textuality relate to performance, how ideology inflects language, and how traditional forms adapt to modern media and popular culture, Finnegan essentially crafts an intellectual history of her field. At the same time, she propels the ethnography of language forward, bringing the techniques and knowledge developed through her fieldwork in Africa to bear on issues that transcend African studies and reach into the larger world of anthropology and beyond.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Chicago, Dept. of Anthropology, August 1977. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 243-244).
Anthropological research conducted from July 2005 to June 2006 in southern Ethiopia demonstrates that Guji-Oromo women have more subtle cultural and economic rights than is immediately apparent. Women actively participate in the ritual aspect of the gada generation grade system, but they are marginally involved in political activities. While customary laws provide women with strong protection from mistreatment by husbands and their clan members, several myths and legends portray them as ineffective for war, politics, and administration. Contrary to the myths and legends, women have continued to provide an important service to their society as links between communities and peace negotiators during and after conflicts. They also enjoy claims to family property in several indirect ways. With changes from pastoralism to agropastoralism, however, women lost some of these economic and customary legal rights and became subjected to more domestic and extra-domestic work burdens. To understand the position of Guji women in their society, myths and stories about men and women, gender-based division of labor, and the general discourses about gender are analyzed and discussed in this manuscript.
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