Professor Dr. Peter Wasamba: Orality, Fieldwork and Textual Production in the 21st Century


Dr. Peter Wasamba is a Professor of African Oral Literature at the University of Nairobi. He is the current Dean Faculty of Arts at the University of Nairobi. He has previously served as an Associate Dean, Faculty of arts, and Chairman in the Department of Literature. He has BA, MA and PhD in Literature, all from the University of Nairobi. Wasamba’s area of specialization is Research in African Oral Literature. His current research project is on Digitisation and archiving of African Oral Literature. 

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Keynote Speech

Orality, Fieldwork and Textual Production in the 21st Century

Oral genres in Africa are documented, appreciated, studied and disseminated as cultural harvest of human experience. Performance remains a defining feature of oral genres. Rapid urbanization and development in ICT have generated debate on existence, relevance, survival and futures of oral genres in Africa. That oral genres are performed in modern times in not in doubt. The major question is: what accounts for the resilience? Verbal texts, as Karin Barber (2007) ably explains,  have the capacity to shed light in a way nothing else can on the inner life of societies. Locally produced texts, composed and transmitted according to peoples own conventions in their own language, encapsulating their own concerns, do seem to speak from within (2). In this paper, I discuss orality, fieldwork and textual production in the 21st Century society as a way of interrogating genre mobility, transformation and futures in Africa. I examine the extent to which changes in genre typology, boundary, and performance affect fieldwork practices such as data collection, data processing, classification, and archiving in a technology driven society. I conclude by making suggestions on methodological approaches researchers can use in documenting contemporary oral genres in Africa.

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