Exhuming the Classroom, Undressing the Skeleton

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A Madagascar-based exhumation ritual called Famadihana might not seem like the blueprint for creating discourse in an American college classroom. Yet we often approach texts (particularly in literature) as sacred relics that can only be handled after careful training by the instructor, who acts as intepreter if not shamen. This presentation will look at how I recently used the model of a Famadihana to create a more meaningful discourse between the class and the text (in this instance, the contemporary memoir Girls of Tender Age by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith). Similar to this Merina tribal ritual in Madagascar, the text was approached as a more animate object that could "speak" back to the classroom. More than just being a book depicting a personal history, the text was seen as a repository of cultural heritage and values--similar to the perception that the Malagasy have towards the dead in the ritual of Famadihana.

Keywords: Famadihana, Exhumation Ritual, Discourse, Classroom
Stream: Equity, Social Justice and Social Change; Community, Culture, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , Exhuming the Classroom, Undressing the Skeleton, , Exhuming the Community, Undressing the Ritual

Kenneth DiMaggio

Associate Professor of Humanities, Capital Community College
Hartford, Connecticut, USA

I am an Associate Professor of Humanities at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut. CCC is an urban community college where students are often reading at a level that is below traditional college course work, thus making literacy a prime issue that constantly needs to be addressed. As a teacher of Literature and Writing, I am constantly looking for texts to help address the above issue. Besides finding new ways to address literacy issues, I am also looking at how to create non-traditional models of writing and critical reading instruction for the classroom. For these purposes, I was awarded a fellowship for Connecticut Community College instructors to do research at Yale University, with the focus on finding a way to internationalize your curriculum. My research was on a Madagascar-based exhumation ceremony known as "Famadihana" and how it creates a discourse between the living and the dead. I am using this model as a way to create classroom discourse for students to relate their present with a past that is often seen as a foreign or even hostile subject.

Ref: L09P0599