This review explores questions of power, epistemology, cultural form, and historical process, as they are raised by and developed in studies of literacy. It begins by reviewing arguments for universalist vs situated accounts of literacy and literacies. Having discussed universalist claims and evidence, and having shown that they cannot withstand criticism, the review develops generalizations about the implications of plural literacies. It explores the relationship among modern state formation, educational systems, and official vs popular literacies, by drawingo n poststructuralist argumentsa bout the role of writing in social formations and on recent historical and ethnographic research on literacy. It analyzes the role of literacies in the formation of class, gender, and racial-ethnic identities, by focusing on the role of education in class stratification, the debate about public vs private in gender dynamics, and the volatile relations between oppressed nationalities and official literacies.

Keyword(s): ethnographyhistoryidentitypower

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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