Religious men and literacy in Berti society
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The thesis examines the use of traditional literacy promulgated by the Koranic schools among the Berti in the Northern Darfur Province of the Republic of the Sudan. This literacy is restricted both in the scope of its use as well as in its social distribution, which remains limited to religious specialists - fakis. Instead of leading to a change in the traditional mode of thought, Berti literacy contributes considerably to maintaining the homeostatic tendency supposedly characteristic of oral societies. Literacy plays an important role in the Berti religious life. The words of God contained in the Koran and other books widely used by the fakis are considered to be sacred, and an important aspect of Berti religion is their internalisation in the form of memorisation, drinking of erasure and the retaining of amulets (hijbat). The repetition of sacred words is used as a means of invoking God in communal rituals and the rites of passage. Literacy underlies book divination practised by the fakis and its literate origin is the ultimate sanction of sand divination which is primarily practised by the illiterate Berti. In their use of the sacred words in healing, divination, communal rituals, rites of passage and the preparation of amulets and erasure, Berti fakis impose their own meaning on the Koranic text which differs considerably from its theological meaning. The thesis includes translation and analysis of over 50 original texts pertaining to erasure writing, amulets, book divination and communal rituals. Photocopies of 25 original amulets are presented in the thesis and the majority of them are translated and commented upon.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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