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Oral Literature in the Digital Age

Oral Literature in the Digital Age: Archiving Orality and Connecting with Communities

Mark Turin
Claire Wheeler
Eleanor Wilkinson
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 189
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  • Book Info
    Oral Literature in the Digital Age
    Book Description:

    Thanks to ever-greater digital connectivity, interest in oral traditions has grown beyond that of researcher and research subject to include a widening pool of global users. When new publics consume, manipulate and connect with field recordings and digital cultural archives, their involvement raises important practical and ethical questions. This volume explores the political repercussions of studying marginalised languages; the role of online tools in ensuring responsible access to sensitive cultural materials; and ways of ensuring that when digital documents are created, they are not fossilized as a consequence of being archived. Fieldwork reports by linguists and anthropologists in three continents provide concrete examples of overcoming barriers—ethical, practical and conceptual—in digital documentation projects. Oral Literature in the Digital Age is an essential guide and handbook for ethnographers, field linguists, community activists, curators, archivists, librarians, and all who connect with indigenous communities in order to document and preserve oral traditions.

    eISBN: 978-1-909254-32-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
    Mark Turin, Claire Wheeler and Eleanor Wilkinson

    This volume is an essential guide and handbook for ethnographers, field linguists, community activists, curators, archivists, librarians, and all who connect with indigenous communities in order to document and preserve oral traditions.

    For societies in which traditions are conveyed more through speech than through writing, oral literature has long been the mode of communication for spreading ideas, knowledge and history. The term “oral literature” broadly includes ritual texts, curative chants, epic poems, folk tales, creation stories, songs, myths, spells, legends, proverbs, riddles, tongue-twisters, recitations and historical narratives. In most cases, such traditions are not translated when a community shifts to...

  6. I. Principles and Methods of Archiving and Conservation

    • 1. The Archive Strikes Back: Effects of Online Digital Language Archiving on Research Relations and Property Rights
      (pp. 3-20)
      Thomas Widlok

      In the framework of programmes for documenting endangered languages such as those funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and the Arcadia Fund, unprecedented amounts of audiovisual data on endangered languages and cultures from around the world are currently being electronically archived. The expectation is that the materials collected will be more readily available (and for much longer) than previously, and available in ways that would benefit a number of different groups of potential users, including speakers who want to revitalise their languages and cultures. However, as I have argued elsewhere (Widlok 2010), the new electronic archives are not simply a quantitative...

    • 2. Access and Accessibility at ELAR, a Social Networking Archive for Endangered Languages Documentation
      (pp. 21-40)
      David Nathan

      Language documentation, also known as documentary linguistics, is a subfield of linguistics that emerged in the 1990s as a response to predictions that the majority of human languages will disappear within a century (Krauss 1992). The discipline aims to develop “methods, tools, and theoretical underpinnings for compiling a representative and lasting multipurpose record of a natural language” (Gippert et al 2006: v). It weaves its focus on endangered languages together with traditional descriptive linguistics and a strong emphasis on the use of media and information technologies. It also encourages ethical practices such as involving language speakers as participants and beneficiaries...

    • 3. Multiple Audiences and Co-Curation: Linking an Ethnographic Archive of Endangered Oral Traditions to Contemporary Contexts
      (pp. 41-62)
      Judith Aston and Paul Matthews

      Unusually for an anthropologist of her generation, anthropologist Wendy James has been consistent in her use of audiovisual media in her fieldwork. She began this process in the mid-1960s, whilst working as a lecturer at the University of Khartoum, initially using silent cine footage, reel-to-reel audio, black and white photographs and colour slides to record interviews and document her observations. On subsequent visits, she has recorded on audio-cassettes, Hi-8 video and most recently taken photographs on a mobile phone.

      Whilst initially making recordings for research and teaching purposes, to act as aide memoires to her written analytical work and to...

  7. II. Engagements and Reflections from the Field

    • 4. Researchers as Griots? Reflections on Multimedia Fieldwork in West Africa
      (pp. 65-90)
      Daniela Merolla and Felix Ameka

      Daniela Merolla and Kofi Dorvlo started a video documentation project in 2007 on Ewe migration stories and the festival in which these stories are re-enacted,Hogebetsotso. Oral sources and archaeological remains suggest that a series of migrations started in the eleventh century and that Ewes settled in Ghana in the early seventeenth century.¹ Oral narratives calledxotuturecount a flow of people from the town called Notsie (in central Togo) to Ghana. The departure from Notsie is enacted in theHogebetsotsofestival (“leaving Hogbe”, i.e. leaving the ancestral land) that takes place in several Anlo towns in Ghana. Merolla and...

    • 5. American Indian Oral Literature, Cultural Identity and Language Revitalisation: Some Considerations for Researchers
      (pp. 91-102)
      Margaret Field

      Kumeyaay is the indigenous language of the San Diego area as well as the northernmost part of Baja California, Mexico, extending southward from the US-Mexico border for about fifty miles. Today, Kumeyaay (specifically, the Tiipay dialect of Kumeyaay) is still actively spoken by about fifty speakers who reside in Mexico, but is very close to obsolescence north of the border. The Tiipay community extends from about fifty miles east of San Diego to the coast, encompassing thirteen distinct communities, each with its own slightly different variety of Tiipay. Just north of these Tiipay communities are the related ‘Iipay Kumeyaay communities,...

    • 6. Ecuador’s Indigenous Cultures: Astride Orality and Literacy
      (pp. 103-120)
      Jorge Gómez Rendón

      Ecuador is the smallest of the Andean countries but is linguistically diverse. Indigenous languages have not successfully entered literacy through educational programmes and are now critically endangered. Eleven indigenous languages from six different language families, including two unclassified ones, are spoken in Ecuador (Gómez Rendón 2009: 7).¹ Kichwa is the most popular indigenous language: it is spoken in the Andean highlands and the Amazon lowlands, and nowadays also in several coastal cities and some towns of the Galapagos Islands as a result of labour migration. While the indigenous population in the highlands is the largest in the country, the indigenous...

    • 7. From Shrine to Stage: A Personal Account of the Challenges of Archiving the Tejaji Ballad of Rajasthan
      (pp. 121-132)
      Madan Meena

      Tejaji is a snake deity widely revered by the agrarian community throughout Rajasthan, parts of Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat. According to popular belief, he was born in the village of Kharnal of Nagaur district (historically known as Marwar state) of Rajasthan during the tenth century AD¹ probably to a Jat (community) family. The story goes that he was married very early as an infant and was unaware of the fact until he grew to adolescence. One day, goaded by his sister-in-law, he learnt about his married status and so resolved to visit his wife’s village and bring her home. Before...

    • 8. Mongghul Ha Clan Oral History Documentation
      (pp. 133-158)
      Ha Mingzong 哈明宗, Ha Mingzhu 哈明珠 and C. K. Stuart

      The Mongghul (Monguor, Tu) are one of several groups of people who are collectively classified as the Tu nationality in China, where they are one of fifty-six officially recognised ethnic groups. “Mongghul” is a phonetic transcription of the self-appellation of certain groups of Tu living in Huzhu Tu Autonomous County, Ledu County, and Datong Hui and Tu Autonomous County in Qinghai Province; and in Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County, Gansu Province. Certain Mongghul elders refer to themselves as Qighaan “White” Mongghul and refer to Mongols as Hara “Black” Mongghul. Some Tibetans refer to them as “Hor”, while Chinese and Hui used...

  8. Index
    (pp. 159-164)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-167)