Lay summary
Colloquium “Mancala Games: New perspectives”

University of Fribourg / September 4-6, 2006

With the purpose to review research on Mancala games hitherto undertaken in different scientific disciplines, the Department of Psychology of Fribourg University in association with the Swiss Museum of the Games at La Tour-de-Peilz organizes an international colloquium. The program will be articulated around three main fields of interest:

1. Mancala games and anthropology
After the pioneering studies (Culin, Pankhurst, Townshend) dedicated to African variants, more recent anthropological research was interested in the geographic distribution of this family of games, notably on the other continents (Eagle, de Voogt, Balambal). Furthermore, archaeological discoveries opened new perspectives on the origin and history of the game, susceptible to question the traditional “out of Africa”-theory (Schädler, Mulvin and Sidebotham). The colloquium will provide opportunity to discuss various questions raised in recent works. Particular attention has to be paid to gender aspects, hitherto rather neglected by studies dedicated to Mancala games.

2. Mancala games and psychology
Since about 25 years researchers in cognitive psychology were interested in Mancala games (Retschitzki, N' Guessan Assandé, de Voogt). After a description of the strategies applied by children as well as adults, recent tendencies lead to the use of more experimental techniques, due to technological progress. While for other games of strategy such as Chess or Go ranking systems have already been established, similar procedures have still to be developed with regard to Mancala games. Besides collecting data resulting from international tournaments, it would be necessary to develop tests and to define further parameters to be considered.

3. Mancala games and education
Several authors recommended the use of the game in education (Smilansky, Smith and Syddall). Nevertheless serious studies demonstrating the educational efficiency of the various forms of Mancala games are lacking.
In particular, literature concerning the didactic use of these games remains poor. However, Mancala games have begun to be introduced into schools as a didactic tool, notably in the field of mathematics.