From storytelling to writing: Transforming literacy practices among sudanese refugees

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47 Scopus citations


This paper presents an analysis of the ways in which a community of orphaned Southern Sudanese refugee youththe Lost Boys of Sudantransformed traditional practices of storytelling as they adjusted to life in the U.S. The result of their experiences as orphaned refugees, this transformation discloses larger issues related to literacy, identity and community for these youth. Theoretical perspectives regarding literacy and storytelling as social practices, reflecting participants' social, cultural, and political contexts, framed this research. Focal participants were 3 orphaned young men, all refugees from Southern Sudan. Ethnographic methods including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and artifact collection contributed to data collection. Data analysis consisted of coding field notes and interview transcripts for emerging themes and conducting discourse analyses on interview transcripts. Results indicated that participants acted as storytellers and also talked explicitly about storytelling's cultural importance. Participants transformed the act of storytelling by altering the purposes, audiences, and media for storytelling that they had encountered or told before. Transformed storytelling revealed the importance of both becoming educated in the U.S. and also of maintaining a sense of Sudanese identity and community among these refugee youth. Their stories also reflected an important tension between orphan identity and maintaining a sense of Sudanese community, as well as a focus on educating non-Sudanese about refugees' experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-358
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Literacy Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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