Storytelling for peace-building: toward sustainable cultural diversity

Part Of Series:
GIALens 3(1)
10 pages
Indigenous cultural knowledge does not always lend itself to harmonious intergroup 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 strife-conducive 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 brotherhood 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 storytelling lends itself to the opposite. In conclusion, a number of thoughts are presented concerning structure and process for storytelling for peace-building workshops in Mangbetu.
Publication Status:
Congo (Kinshasa)
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Work Type:
Mangbetu tales
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