Illustrated with numerous stories collected from Alaska, the
Yukon, and South Africa and further enlivened by the author's
accessible style and experiences as a longtime oral historian and
archivist, So They Understand is a comprehensive study of the
special challenges and concerns involved in documenting,
representing, preserving, and interpreting oral narratives. The
title of the book comes from a quotation by Chief Peter John, the
traditional chief of the Tanana Chiefs region in central Alaska:
"In between the lines is something special going on in their minds,
and that has got to be brought to light, so they understand just
exactly what is said."
William Schneider discusses how stories work in relation to
their cultures and performance settings, sorts out different types
of stories-from broad genres such as personal narratives and life
histories to such more specific and less-often considered types as
presentations at hearings and other public gatherings-and examines
a variety of critical issues, including the roles and relationships
of storytellers and interviewers, accurate representation and
preservation of stories and their performances, understanding and
interpreting their cultural backgrounds and meanings, and
intellectual property rights. Throughout, he blends a diverse
selection of stories, including his own, into a text rich with
William Schneider is curator of oral history and associate in
anthropology at the Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska
Fairbanks, where he introduced oral history "jukeboxes," innovative
interactive, multimedia computer files that present and
cross-reference audio oral history and related photos and maps.
Among other works, his publications include, as editor, Kusiq: An
Eskimo Life History from the Arctic Coast of Alaska and, with
Phyllis Morrow, When Our Words Return: Writing, Hearing, and
Remembering Oral Traditions of Alaska and the Yukon.
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