Sensory Ways to Indigenous Multimodal Literacies: Hands and Feet Tell the Story

  • Kathy A. MillsEmail author
  • Jane Dooley
Part of the Language Policy book series (LAPO, volume 19)


This chapter reports original research that asks the question: What are the ways of knowing, being, and communicating that are valued and practiced in Indigenous communities? Literacy curricula, internationally and nationally, typically do not take into account the multi-sensorial dimensions of non-Western forms of representation that go beyond narrow conceptions of print. For example, literacies are often conceived as drawing on print, visual, spatial, gestural, and audio modes, but the role of haptics and locomotion has typically received little attention. This chapter highlights examples of the multi-sensoriality of Indigenous literacies observed in participatory community research with an Indigenous school. It extends recent theories of sensory studies in the history and cultural anthropology of the senses, applying these principles to literacy education. Sensory literacies is a theoretical perspective that gives priority to the sensorial dimensions of the body and its role in communication in literacy practice, because without a sensing body, we cannot know about or communicate with the world. The data demonstrates how the forgotten role of the hands and feet in dominant theories of communication is central to Indigenous identity and literacies. Written by a white academic with an Indigenous researcher, the chapter problematises the privileging of narrow, logocentric, and Western forms of literacy and its implications for rethinking the role of the whole body in literacy and the literacy curriculum for Indigenous students.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher EducationAustralian Catholic UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Deakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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