Accepted Paper:

Storytelling for peace-building and sustainable cultural diversity  

Author:

Robert McKee (Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics)

Paper short abstract:

Indigenous knowledge does not always lend itself to harmonious inter-group relations or cultural survival. Storytelling enables a community to examine values embedded in its traditional stories with an eye to abandoning strifeful values and transforming destructive storytelling into constructive. Storytelling may thus promote both peace-building and sustainable cultural diversity.

Paper long abstract:

Indigenous cultural knowledge does not always lend itself to harmonious inter-group relations or cultural survival. In fact, according to Robert Edgerton’s Sick Societies (1992), certain parts of this knowledge—e.g., certain beliefs, practices, and values—may be seriously maladaptive for the societies concerned. If culture is viewed as an adaptive process, as in Louise Grenier’s Working with Indigenous Knowledge (1998) and UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2002), then maladaptive parts may legitimately be changed or abandoned.

Storytelling, as treated in Jessica Senehi’s ‘Constructive storytelling: A peace process’ (2002), is presented as an accessible, flexible means by which a community might examine values embedded in its traditional stories with an eye to abandoning strifeful values and transforming destructive storytelling into constructive. Storytelling for peace-building in Mangbetu (northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo) is used to sketch and illustrate a simple model of the indigenous knowledge-sustainable development relationship. Story examples are two Mangbetu tales from the author’s own researches; some brief Mangbetu ethnography, including of Mangbetu tales generally, is first provided as context; Mangbetu tale values examined concern (1) the assertion of fictive brother¬hood on the basis of minimal sameness and (2) vengeance in spades against a neighbor-brother for perceived injustice. By analysis, the tales illustrate the point that constructive storytelling lends itself to peace-building and sustainable cultural diversity, while destructive story¬telling lends itself to opposite ends. In conclusion, a number of thoughts are presented concerning structure and process for storytelling for peace-building workshops in Mangbetu.

Panel IW08
World in Europe