Becoming Literate, Being Human: Adult Literacy and Moral Reconstruction in Botswana


Frances J. Riemer is the director of NAU's Women's and Gender Studies Program and an associate professor in Educational Foundations at Northern Arizona University. Her current research takes the form of an ethnographic examination of the relationships between literacy practice and access to income-generating opportunities, political activity, and community-development efforts in two rural and one urban community in Botswana. Educational Foundations, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 5774, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 (


This article draws on ethnographic research to examine relationships between literacy and identity for newly literate men and women in the southern African country of Botswana. Situating beliefs about literacy in the intersection of evangelical missionary discourse, colonial-era labor practices, and modernity rhetoric, I argue that literacy is attributed with the power to transform oneself and describe an adult learning community that based pedagogy in these shared beliefs about literacy. [literacy practices, adult education, southern Africa, ethnographic research]