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

Storytelling in Northern Zambia: Theory, Method, Practice and Other Necessary Fictions Robert Cancel
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-909254-59-6 £15.95
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-909254-60-2 £29.95
PDF ISBN: 978-1-909254-61-9 £0.00
epub ISBN: 978-1-909254-62-6 £5.95
mobi ISBN: 978-1-909254-63-3 £5.95

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More than just a book, Storytelling in Northern Zambia lets you
watch videos of the storytellers while you read.

To watch all 38 videos go to our Additional Resources tab.
The same video material is available also at

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.
óMustafa Kemal Mirzeler, Journal of Folklore Research (March 2014), review available at
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 Cancelís 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.

Cancelís 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.

Storytelling in Northern Zambia is the third volume in our World Oral Literature Series. The Series is produced in conjunction with the World Oral Literature Project.

Storytelling in Northern Zambia: Theory, Method, Practice and Other Necessary Fictions
Robert Cancel | July 2013
xviii+ 276 | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
World Oral Literature Series,vol. 3 | ISSN: 2050-7933 (Print); 2054-362X (Online)
ISBN Paperback: 9781909254596
ISBN Hardback: 9781909254602
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781909254619
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781909254626
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781909254633
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033
BIC subject codes: JFHF (Folklore, myths and legends), JHMC (Social and cultural anthropology, ethnography), 2H (African languages)

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Audio-Visual Resources


Mark Turin

I. Writing Oral Narrative: The Role and Description of Self in Recording Living Traditions
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033.01

II. The Tabwa Context: Mature Shifting of Frames and Adolescent Assertion
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033.02

III. Chiefs, Tricksters and Christians: Bemba Tales and Lessons
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033.03

IV. Bisa Storytelling: The Politics of Hunting, Beer-Drinks, and Elvis
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033.04

V. Telling Tales While Keeping Secrets: Two Lunda Storytelling Sessions
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033.05

VI. Stories on Demand: A Performance Session Among the Bwile
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033.06

VII. Conclusion: Lessons from Frozen Moments
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0033.07

Works cited

Robert Cancel is an Associate Professor of African and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego. He has also taught at the University of Zambia and the University of Ghana, Legon. His teaching and publications range from African oral and written literatures and cinema to Caribbean literature and music. 
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.

 QR code scanners are widely available to download for free onto all brands of smartphones and tablet computers. In order to download one of these scanners, visit your deviceís app store and search for "QR code scannerĒ. This will give you a range of options to download for free. Once you have downloaded your chosen scanner, you can use it to scan the QR codes given throughout Storytelling in Northern Zambia, in order to watch video recordings of the stories transcribed in this book. If you are reading the book in a digital format you may need to enlarge the QR code in order to scan it.

Links to the audio-visual resources:

Tabwa Storytelling 1 (120 MB)

Tabwa Storytelling 2 (162 MB)

Tabwa Storytelling 3 (184 MB)

Tabwa Storytelling 4 (39.4 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 1 (48.9 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 2 (71.7 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 3 (52.6 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 4 (61.8 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 5 (42.6 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 6 (91.2 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 7 (133 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 8 (108 MB)

Bemba Storytelling 9 (153 MB)

Bisa Storytelling 1 (162 MB)

Bisa Storytelling 2 (68.4 MB)

Bisa Storytelling 3 (49.9 MB)

Bisa Storytelling 4 (84.6 MB)

Bisa Storytelling 5 (148 MB)

Bisa Storytelling 6 (86.4 MB)

Bisa Storytelling 7 (27.9 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 1 and 2 (110 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 3 (121 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 4 (30 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 5 (87.6 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 6 (65.9 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 7 (252 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 8 (37 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 9 (43.5 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 10 (26.5 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 11 (146 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 12 (33.8 MB)

Lunda Storytelling 13 (119 MB)

Bwile Storytelling 1 (100 MB)

Bwile Storytelling 2 (37 MB)

Bwile Storytelling 3 (205 MB)

Bwile Storytelling 4 (121 MB)

Bwile Storytelling 5 (125 MB)

Bwile Storytelling 6 (143 MB)