Access, Availability and Sponsors of Literacy in Mirpur

  • Tony Capstick


This chapter examines the availability of written material and the opportunities that prospective migrants in Mirpur have for participating in reading and writing activities which, following work by Judith Kalman (2005), I will characterise as access to literacy. Drawing from work by Urs Fuhrer (1996), Kalman has argued that using social practices in specific contexts means learning to respond to the specific requirements of participation. Each practice is shaped to fit the social context in which it is employed. Contexts here are seen as including physical spaces as well as the social conduct which is expected within them, though an NLS perspective would also emphasise the role of values and ideologies in conduct. In order to understand the influence of institutions on these social spaces I also draw on the concept of literacy sponsorship, since literacy, Brandt argues, is part of larger social systems which confer value on reading and writing (2001). In this sense, Papen (2010COMP: Please remove a for Papen (2010) in the list.) suggests, the concept of literacy sponsorship is close to NLS in that it captures the relationship between people and the institutions which shape their literacy. Understanding literacy in this way means taking account of ‘any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach and model, as well as recruit, regulate, or withhold literacy—and gain advantage by it in some way’ (Brandt 2001: 27). What I aim to do in this chapter is identify the relationship between the sponsors of literacy in Mirpur and the individual literacy practices of Usman’s family. This involves exploring the varieties of English which Usman’s literacy practices included, and how these varieties in turn provided, but also prevented, access to literacy and different varieties of English. The analysis examines how this access is related to the social context in which each literacy practice is employed, as I understand access in Kalman’s sense means opportunities to use and practise a language in its written form. Kalman argues that it is the availability of printed matter which influences how opportunities to access reading and writing practices are constituted and how, in turn, these opportunities facilitate the availability of printed matter. Kalman is careful, though, to emphasise that written culture is not automatically accessed by the mere physical presence of written materials, since texts may be available but not everyone is able to read them in the same way, or in some cases read them at all.


Access Route Visa Application Literacy Practice Religious Text Context Level 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Capstick
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ReadingReadingUK

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