Brian Street-April 27, 2014


                              DR. BRIAN STREET

Brian Street, King's College, UK

Brian Street, King’s College, UK


“The LETTER Project:
Learning for Empowerment Through Training in Ethnographic Research”

April 27, 2013
11:00 a.m. Eastern time zone/New York/US

                           GSU Student Host: Tuba Angay-Crowder

Dr. Brian Street is Professor Emeritus of language in education at King’s College, London, England, and visiting professor of education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, USA. He undertook anthropological fieldwork in literacy in Iran during the 1970s, and taught social and cultural anthropology for over twenty years at the University of Sussex before taking up the chair of language in education at King’s College. He has written and lectured extensively on literacy practices from both a theoretical and an applied perspective. His publications include more than 20 books, many written collaboratively, and over 100 articles. He has a longstanding commitment to linking ethnographic-style research on the cultural dimension of language and literacy, with contemporary practice in education and in development. In 2008 he received the Distinguished Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Reading Conference, USA.

Brian Street views literacies as social practices, and approaches literacy from cross–cultural perspectives, in which there are multiple literacies that are practiced in real contexts. He stresses the social nature, as opposed to the autonomous, skills-oriented perspective, of literacy. Rejecting the “great divide” theory of literacy, he complicates the notion of the literate/illiterate binary.

Social Literacies

Social Literacies

In Brian V. Street’s 1995 book highly influential book, Social Literacies, he argues that “literacy practices are specific to the political and ideological context and their consequences vary situationally” (p. 24). Street adds that we, as literacy researchers, are forced to “question whether the current framework in which such activities are conducted is the most fruitful” (p. 24). The framework through which literacy research is explored is still being re-shaped to incorporate complex issues like power, identity and agency.

Dr. Street’s web seminar will address The LETTER Project. Started in India from discussions between a local women’s NGO, Nirantar, dedicated to Women’s Empowerment Through Education, the programme commenced in 2005 with a series of workshops arranged by Nirantar and the Asia-South-Pacific Bureau of

Everyday Literacies in Africa. Ethnographic Studies of Literacy and Numeracy Practices in Ethiopia

Everyday Literacies in Africa. Ethnographic Studies of Literacy and Numeracy Practices in Ethiopia

Adult Education with participants from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. The project then moved to Ethiopia in which 20 teachers from around the country participated in this highly generative programme, and a book was written locally and published. A current project is underway in Uganda linking Makerere University with Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Kwa-Zulu-Natal University (South Africa) and Kings College London and the Institute of Education, London (UK). Two new features of The LETTER Project are the writing of reading material for learners, using ethnographic approaches to explore original (oral) material such as local stories and practices, and secondly,  each of the participants has been asked to develop and teach a short training programme in literacy for adults using ethnographic material.  Thus training for teaching is part of the LETTER Project now. The main focus of The LETTER Project was on approaches to exploring everyday literacy and numeracy in local communities using ethnographic-style methodologies, and its basic principles are that of helping the literacy learners to understand more clearly how they regard  ‘literacy’ and numeracy, and how they are already engaging with it as an essential first step towards helping them to learn more.  Developing detailed local ethnographic perspectives will be a particularly effective tool for challenging assumptions and generalisations about both literacy and learning; ethnographic explorations of the everyday are a necessary part of any pedagogic activity, whether with adults or children,  whether in Europe or in the contexts of international development.

Access Dr. Street’s website. Brian Street’s recommended readings:

Wingate, U. & Tribble. Wingate and Tribble The best of 2 worlds

Street, Brian. Rels of Policy Theory Research in Literacy Field


Selected Publications

Rowsell, J., Kress, G., & Street, B. V. (2013). Visual optics: interpreting body art, three ways. Visual Communication, 12(1), 97–122.

Kalman, J., & Street, B. V. (2013). Literacy and numeracy in Latin America: local perspectives and beyond / edited by Judy Kalman, Brian Street. New York: Routledge.

Street, B. V. (2011). Literacy inequalities in theory and practice: The power to name and define. International Journal of Educational Development, 31(6), 580–586.

Russell, D. R., Lea, M., Parker, J., Street, B., & Donahue, T. (2009). Exploring notions of genre in “academic literacies” and “writing across the curriculum”: approaches across countries and contexts. Retrieved from

Street, B., Pahl, K., & Rowsell, J. (2009). Multimodality and new literacy studies. In Jewitt, Carey (red)(2009). The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis (pp. , 191-200)  New York, NY: Routledge.

Street, B. V., & Hornberger, N. H. (2008). Encyclopedia of language and education. Vol. 2, Literacy. New York: Springer.

Coffey, S., & Street, B. (2008). Narrative and identity in the “Language Learning Project”. The Modern Language Journal, 92(3), 452-464.

Heath, B. S. & Street, B. V. (2008). On Ethnography: Approaches to Language and Literacy Research. New York, NY:  Teachers College Columbia.

Ellis, V., Street, B. V., & Fox, C. (Eds.) (2007). Rethinking English in schools. New York, NY: Continuum Books.

Street, B. V. & Lefstein, A. (2007) Literacy: An advanced resource book. London, England: Routledge.

Street, B. V. & Hornberger, N. H. (Eds.) (2007). Encyclopedia of language and education literacy (V. 2). Springer.

Street, B. V. (2008). Ethnography of writing and reading. In D. R. Olson & N. Torrance. Cambridge Handbook of Literacy. CUP: Cambridge

Lea, M. R., & Street, B. V. (2006). The “Academic Literacies” Model: Theory and applications. Theory Into Practice, 45(4), 368-377.

Street, B. V. (2006). Autonomous and Ideological Models of Literacy: Approaches from New Literacy Studies. Media Anthropology Network, 17-24.

Kress, G., & Street, B. (2006). Multi-modality and literacy practices. Travel notes from the New Literacy Studies. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Street, B. V., Baker, D., & Tomlin, A. (2005). Navigating numeracies: Home/school numeracy practices. Springer.

Street, B. (2004). Futures of the ethnography of literacy? Language and Education, 18(4), 326–330.

Street, B. V. (2004). Academic Literacies and the ‘New Orders’: Implications for research and practice in student writing in HE. Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences, 1(1), 9-32.

Street, B. (2003). The Limits of the Local–‘Autonomous’ or ‘Disembedding’? International Journal of Learning, 10, 2825-2830.

Street, B. (2003). What’s “new” in New Literacy Studies? Critical approaches to literacy in theory and practice. Current issues in comparative education, 5(2), 77–91.

Baker, D., Street, B., & Tomlin, A. (2003). Mathematics as social: understanding relationships between home and school numeracy practices. For the learning of mathematics, 23(3), 11-15.

Street, B. V. (2001). Literacy and development: Ethnographic perspectives. Psychology Press.

Street, B. V. (2001). Literacy empowerment in developing societies. Literacy and motivation: Reading engagement in individuals and groups, 71-94.

Street, B. V. (1999). Literacy and social change: The significance of social context in the development of literacy programmes. In D. A. Wagner (Ed.), Future of literacy in a changing world (pp. 55–72). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Jones, C., Turner, J. & Street, B. V. (Eds) (1999) Students writing in the university: cultural and epistemological issues. Amsterdam, John Benjamins.

Street, B. (1997). The Implications of the “New Literacy Studies” for Literacy Education. English in Education, 31(3), 45–59.

Street, B. V. (1994). What is meant by local literacies? Language and Education, 8(1-2), 9–17.

Street, B. (1993). Culture is a verb: Anthropological aspects of language and cultural process. Language and culture, 23–43.

Street, B. V. (1993). Cross-cultural approaches to literacy (Vol. 23). Cambridge University Press.

Lea, M. & Street, B. V. (1998). Student writing in higher education: An academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 157–172

Street, B. (1995). Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography and education. London: Longman.

Street, B. V. (1993). The new literacy studies, guest editorial. Journal of Research in Reading, 16(2), 81-97.

Street, B. V. (1990). Cultural meanings of literacy. Unesco.

Street, B. V. (1984) Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge University Press.

1 Response to Brian Street-April 27, 2014

  1. Pingback: Welcome to Global Conversations in Literacy Research (GCLR) | Global Conversations in Literacy Research

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