The links between literacy and development have been the focus of research conducted by both economists and anthropologists. Yet researchers from these different disciplines have tended to work in isolation from each other. This book aims to create a space for new interdisciplinary debate in this area, through bringing together contributions on literacy and development from the fields of education, literacy studies, anthropology and economics. The book extends our theoretical understanding on the ways in which people’s acquisition and uses of literacy influence changes in agency, identity, social practice and labour market and other outcomes. The chapters discuss data from diverse cultural contexts (South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Peru, and Mexico), and from contrasting research paradigms. The contributors examine the significance of culture and socio-economic contexts in shaping such processes. As such, they contribute to our understanding of the role of literacy in processes of poverty reduction, and its importance to people’s capabilities and wellbeing. The themes covered include: the dynamics of literacy use in the production of agency, the enactment, negotiation and embodiment of new social identities - including gendered and religious identities; the impacts of literate identities and use on institutional relations and social participation; the dynamics of literacy ‘sharing’ and their externalities within and beyond households; formal analysis of the impacts of proximate illiteracy on labour market and health outcomes across men and women and social contexts.
This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of Development Studies.