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Problematising Literacy

The Light of Knowledge: Literacy Activism and the Politics of Writing in South India by Francis Cody, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2013; pp xviii + 250, price not indicated.

What is the significance of literacy in the relationship between the nation state and its citizens? What future does literacy promise to those learning to read and write? Would it be justified to assume that becoming literate necessarily leads to the empowerment and emancipation of the individuals involved?

These are some of the very penetrating questions that are raised throughout Francis Cody’s rigorous and engaging anthropological study. He not only raises important questions on the nature of the relationship between nation state and the citizen in the light of a mass literacy movement, but also encourages his readers to interrogate the universalising/homogenising metanarratives that quite uncritically tend to establish a natural linkage between literacy, social development and change.

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