Storytelling in Northern Zambia: Theory, Method, Practice and Other Necessary Fictions - cover image

Book Series


Robert Cancel

Published On





  • English

Print Length

294 pages (xviii + 276)


Paperback156 x 16 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.62" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 17 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.69" x 9.21")


Paperback918g (32.38oz)
Hardback1300g (45.86oz)



OCLC Number





  • JHMC
  • JFHF
  • 2H


  • LIT004010
  • SOC002010
  • SOC011000


  • LB1042


  • Zambian stories
  • storytelling
  • oral history
  • oral literature
  • African folklore studies
  • African storytelling
  • Bemba language

Storytelling in Northern Zambia

Theory, Method, Practice and Other Necessary Fictions

More than just a book, Storytelling in Northern Zambia lets you watch videos of the storytellers while you read. Storytelling plays an important part in the vibrant cultural life of Zambia and in many other communities across Africa. This innovative book provides a collection and analysis of oral narrative traditions as practiced by five Bemba-speaking ethnic groups in Zambia. The integration of newly digitalised audio and video recordings into the text enables the reader to encounter the storytellers themselves and hear their narratives as they were recounted during Robert Cancel’s research trips to Zambia. Robert Cancel's thorough critical interpretation, combined with these newly digitalised audio and video materials, makes Storytelling in Northern Zambia a much needed addition to the slender corpus of African folklore studies that deal with storytelling performance. Cancel threads his way between the complex demands of African fieldwork studies, folklore theory, narrative modes, reflexive description and simple documentation and succeeds in bringing to the reader a set of performers and their performances that are vivid, varied and instructive. He illustrates this living narrative tradition with a wide range of examples, and highlights the social status of narrators and the complex local identities that are at play. Cancel’s innovative study tells us not only about storytelling but sheds light on the study of oral literatures throughout Africa and beyond. Its innovative format, meanwhile, explores new directions in the integration of primary source material into scholarly texts. This book is part of our World Oral Literature Series in conjunction with the World Oral Literature Project.


The author carefully integrates the digitized audio and video recordings into the text, enabling the reader to hear the voices of the storytellers themselves and listen to their narratives. Cancel's critical interpretation of the stories, combined with these audio and video materials, makes this book an important addition to studies of folklore in Africa. [...] Cancel's study, with its innovative format, explores new directions in the field of folklore.

Mustafa Kemal Mirzeler

"Storytelling in Northern Zambia: Theory, Method, Practice and Other Necessary Fictions By Robert Cancel". Journal of Folklore Research Reviews, 2014.

Full Review

Additional Resources

This book draws upon the digital archive of videos and audio recordings collected by Robert Cancel during his research trips to Zambia in1988-1989 and 2005. Recordings of thirty-nine of the oral narratives transcribed in the book are freely available on-line. In order to access them you can follow the links given below, or you can scan the QR code which appears alongside each story.

[video, 120 MB]Tabwa Storytelling 1
[video, 162 MB]Tabwa Storytelling 2
[video, 184 MB]Tabwa Storytelling 3
[video, 39.4 MB]Tabwa Storytelling 4
[video, 48.9 MB]Bemba Storytelling 1
[video, 71.7 MB]Bemba Storytelling 2
[video, 52.6 MB]Bemba Storytelling 3
[video, 61.8 MB]Bemba Storytelling 4
[video, 42.6 MB]Bemba Storytelling 5
[video, 91.2 MB]Bemba Storytelling 6
[video, 133 MB]Bemba Storytelling 7
[video, 108 MB]Bemba Storytelling 8
[video, 153 MB]Bemba Storytelling 9
[video, 162 MB]Bisa Storytelling 1
[video, 68.4 MB]Bisa Storytelling 2
[video, 49.9 MB]Bisa Storytelling 3
[video, 84.6 MB]Bisa Storytelling 4
[video, 148 MB]Bisa Storytelling 5
[video, 86.4 MB]Bisa Storytelling 6
[video, 27.9 MB]Bisa Storytelling 7
[video, 121 MB]Lunda Storytelling 3
[video, 30 MB]Lunda Storytelling 4
[video, 87.6 MB]Lunda Storytelling 5
[video, 65.9 MB]Lunda Storytelling 6
[video, 252 MB]Lunda Storytelling 7
[video, 37 MB]Lunda Storytelling 8
[video, 43.5 MB]Lunda Storytelling 9
[video, 26.5 MB]Lunda Storytelling 10
[video, 146 MB]Lunda Storytelling 11
[video, 33.8 MB]Lunda Storytelling 12
[video, 119 MB]Lunda Storytelling 13
[video, 100 MB]Bwile Storytelling 1
[video, 37 MB]Bwile Storytelling 2
[video, 205 MB]Bwile Storytelling 3
[video, 121 MB]Bwile Storytelling 4
[video, 125 MB]Bwile Storytelling 5
[video, 143 MB]Bwile Storytelling 6


Robert Cancel

Associate Professor of African and Comparative Literature at University of California, San Diego