Repository logo

World Oral Literature Project Workshop 2010

This workshop explored key issues around the dissemination of oral literature through traditional and digital media. Funding agencies, including our own Supplemental Grants Programme, now encourage fieldworkers to return copies of their work to source communities, in addition to requiring researchers to deposit their collections in institutional repositories. But thanks to ever greater digital connectivity, wider internet access and affordable multimedia recording technologies, the locus of dissemination and engagement has grown beyond that of researcher and research subject to include a diverse constituency of global users, such as migrant workers, indigenous scholars, policymakers and journalists, to name but a few.

The workshop took place on Friday, 10 December to Saturday, 11 December at CRASSH, University of Cambridge.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 17 of 17
  • ItemOpen Access
    Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres: Reflections on Partnership
    (2010-12-10) Merolla, Daniela
    This paper presents the project Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres: Connecting Diasporas and Local Audiences that focuses on multimedia as a tool for ‘sharing’ documentation and scientific knowledge with the cultural owners of the collected oral genres. The increasing number of African websites are further augmented by sites created outside of Africa by individuals in the diaspora, who nevertheless remain closely connected to their homeland communities. These tendencies indicate that electronic tools can be used to share documentation and research with local publics within Africa and with diasporic communities outside. ‘Sharing knowledge’, however, involves theoretical and methodological challenges. In particular, the practice and theory of academic partnership needs to be thoroughly interrogated when we consider the tensions that traverse the scientific endeavour on the cooperation between researchers, technicians and people from local communities. Our project suggests that scholars be more aware of the complex nature of their responsibility with regard to storytellers, audience(s) and their three-sided interaction, both scientifically and ethically, than has been previously advocated and attempted.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Stòras a’ Bhaile: Digital Archives and Community-based Language Renewal in the Cape Breton Gàidhealtachd
    (2010-12-10) Shaw, John; Falzett, Tiber
    This paper examines current initiatives aimed at increasing the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, along with their knowledge of local forms of verbal art and oral tradition, through the use of online digital collections of archival recordings in communal immersion settings. These collections include heritage recordings as well as recent collections including The Nova Scotia Highland Village Museum-led project Cainnt Mo Mhàthar (‘My Mother Tongue’) which recorded oral traditions and local knowledge from remaining first-language Scottish Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton communities with the purpose of employing this material in communal immersion settings through the Gàidhlig aig Baile (‘Gaelic at Home’) programme. This and other initiatives will be outlined in the presentation, and a brief discussion will be made concerning how this community-based model as practiced in the Nova Scotian Gàidhealtachd can be replicated globally by endangered language communities in comparable situations to facilitate in the renewal and maintenance of their intangible cultural heritage.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Patronage, Commodification and the Dissemination of Performance Art: The Shared Benefits of Web Archiving
    (2010-12-10) Wickett, Elizabeth
    In the increasingly technological universe of the Internet and digital technology where sounds and images are sold for the benefit of some (but not others), issues of copyright, intellectual property rights and the commercialisation and marketing of expressive culture on the web have become central. Performer and scholar should agree on an appropriate performance context prior to recording, and both approve the final product. Good sound and image quality is vital if a resultant DVD is to be sold, but this is a challenge in remote, non-electrified environments in which performances are spontaneously composed. Reproductive rights by each party as well as the contexts of reproduction must be negotiated and determined prior to web broadcast because of issues pertaining to veiling, disclosure, censorship and identification. If the filming or audio recording is done to professional standards, DVDs can be reproduced and copied for profit by the performer. The ethnographer then becomes both patron and marketeer, in partnership with the performance artist. The archive, in consequence, once a passive repository, becomes a dual-purpose facility, a potential launching board for sales and a site of and for comparative research.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Disappearing Horchin Mongolian Narrative Songs
    (2010-12-10) Ujeed, Uranchimeg
    This presentation discusses the present situation of Horchin Mongolian folk narrative songs, based on my fieldwork carried out in the spring of 2010. Most Horchin Mongolian songs are narratives based on actual events, and are a combination of storytelling and singing accompanied by the Mongol huur, a four stringed fiddle. Only bards known as huurchi and a small number of very talented people can perform them in the proper fashion, a process that lasts several hours. While the Horchin Mongolian song tradition still exists, it is at the verge of disappearing and most modern bards now perform their songs in a very changed or fractured form. I begin by describing the current status of the huurchi and folk narrative traditions and then address the historical, social, cultural and political reasons for the present, perilous situation of Horchin Mongolian songs. I conclude by discussing the future prospects for Horchin Mongolian songs, and their preservation and dissemination.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Archiving Nganyi Weatherlore and Connecting with Modern Science of Rain Prediction: Challenges and Prospects
    (2010-12-10) Simala, K Inyani
    This paper discusses the integration of indigenous knowledge about rain prediction with modern meteorological forecasts in climate risk management to support community-based adaptation. The paper is based on research among the Nganyi community of Western Kenya to increase the visibility, effectiveness, sustainability and acceptability of local knowledge by integrating it with modern science rainfall forecasts. This research found that community memory includes songs, poems, proverbs and legends that are used to describe, protect and archive rain prediction knowledge, practices and beliefs. Accumulated over generations and deeply embedded in the experiential and historic reality of the community, indigenous knowledge is often considered the property of the entire Nganyi community, maintained and orally transmitted through a select few specialists. The desire to understand pressing issues such as climate change is not made any easier by competing and different knowledge domains, none of which offers a single and comprehensive answer to what is happening around us. This paper argues that the challenge of understanding today’s world is actually the challenge of integrating knowledge from different perspectives through collaboration, innovation, integration and communication.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Challenges of Fieldwork and Documentation: A Case Study of Mudugar-Kurumbar Research Centre, Attappady
    (2010-12-10) P S, Sachindev
    The Mudugar are an indigenous community living in Attappady, South India. Having been displaced from the forest and resettled in the valley, they are now undergoing major transformation, including the corruption of their unique indigenous knowledge systems. It was in this context, and with the aim to create a repository of indigenous culture, that the Mudugar-Kurumbar Research Centre was established. In this paper, I will discuss the steps and challenges faced by the Centre in documenting and storing cultural knowledge. These challenges include working with the community (and against the weather) in fieldwork, where objections from some community members due to suspicion and inhibition adversely affected the documentation process. Community members also assisted in logging and classifying documents, and the Centre respects the sentiments of the members by using Mudugar words for nomenclature. The documents are made available to internal (community members) and external agencies (research scholars and public), and we are disseminating video documents to the public by collaborating with a local TV channel.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Archive Access and Accessibility: A Progress Report on Social Networking at Work
    (2010-12-10) Nathan, David
    The Endangered Language Archive (ELAR) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has taken a social networking approach to archiving and disseminating documentation of endangered languages and cultures (ELC) in order to balance two requirements: the sensitivity of many ELC materials, requiring effective but nuanced access control; and the fluidity of ELC materials and their access permissions over time, requiring multiple ongoing relationships between depositors, users, and the archive. I will report on issues that arose during the system’s development and users’ responses to it following its launch in June 2010. I will also raise the issue of perceptions of access: access is perceived to be relative to the semiotics of the archive interface, rather than the colder fact of whether a particular file is reachable. More concretely, safe and appropriate access control can be enhanced through implementation of further social networking patterns, such as ‘user reputation’ (Crumlish & Malone 2009).
  • ItemOpen Access
    Digital Documentation of the China Mongghul Ha Clan Oral History
    (2010-12-10) Mingzong, Ha
    This paper will describe the author’s project documenting the Mongghul Ha clan oral history tradition in Qinghai and Gansu provinces, China, by focusing on the purposes, methods and approaches to documentation. Reactions and attitudes towards, and views of, the project on the part of local community members of different age groups will be emphasized. I will present an overview of approaches to the preservation of the collected materials in the form of DVDs, an online database and traditional academic outputs (e.g., transcription, translation, and research papers), as well as the redistribution of the digitised materials back to the community and online. Finally, the possible impacts of the return of the materials to the local communities of the Ha clan in Qinghai and Gansu will be discussed.
  • ItemOpen Access
    From Shrine to Stage: The Challenges of Archiving Ritualistic Performances with Reference to the Tejaji Ballad of Rajasthan
    (2010-12-10) Meena, Madan
    The Ballad of Tejaji occupies an important place in the sung oral tradition of agrarian folklore over large tracts of Rajasthan and into Madhya Pradesh. Tejaji is glorified for the manner of his death in which he gave up his life to fulfil his promise to a snake. In return, blessings are bestowed upon him so that any snakebite victim who ties a thread in his name will be saved. Men come together at night to sing this ballad during the monsoon months, when the possibility of encountering snakes is highest. The author is in the process of recording the 20-hour ballad in its entirety for the first time, with funding from the World Oral Literature Project. The ballad will be transcribed in Hadoti, translated into Hindi and English, and published in book form. These audio-visual and written records will document this cultural heritage for the future, but will also constitute a fossilised archive of a constantly changing tradition. In my presentation, I will consider the challenges of archiving ritual performances that are gradually shifting from the shrine to the stage.
  • ItemOpen Access
    ‘Kumabali Ye Horon Di’ (The Person Who Doesn’t Speak Is Free): On the Social Construction of Copy Rights
    (2010-12-10) Jansen, Jan
    Based on observations during years of fieldwork in Manding dating back to 1988, this presentation analyses a recording of one person as a group or team performance. I will show how those not involved in the actual recording position themselves in order to have a claim on the recording. The argument is demonstrated with a video recording (of themes from the Sunjata epic, recited by a person officially inaugurated as the ‘Master of the Word’ of his family) made in Kela (Mali), January 2007, recently published as Volume 3 in the Verba Africana series. I argue that these ‘overlooked’ aspects are epistemological challenges to what academics generally present as oral tradition.
  • ItemOpen Access
    New Approaches to Orality: The Ecuadorian Experience
    (2010-12-10) Rendón, Jorge Gómez
    Ecuador is linguistically diverse: it is home to thirteen indigenous languages besides the official language (Spanish). All of Ecuador’s indigenous languages, including the one with the largest number of speakers, are endangered. Due to a century-long history of invisibility and shrinking of native territories, these languages remain largely anchored in orality. In this paper, I discuss two new approaches to orality. One is my proposal of a laboratory of indigenous languages, an initiative that was launched in 2008 for Kichwa in its pilot stage by the Ministry of Education. The second proposal has to do with the management and safeguarding of oral expressions as part of intangible cultural heritage in the framework of a Law of Culture now being discussed by the Congress in Ecuador. By comparing these two approaches, I will highlight several political issues including the tension between individual property rights and collective rights in the dissemination of intangible cultural heritage, and the political appropriation of orality for the improvement of indigenous education and the strengthening of indigenous activist movements.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Oral Tradition and the Internet
    (2010-12-10) Foley, John Miles
    Although the proposition may at first seem counterintuitive, humankind’s oldest and newest technologies of communication are fundamentally homologous. To put it succinctly, oral tradition (OT) and Internet technology (IT) share the core dynamic of navigating through networks, of blazing a trail through webs of potentials. Rather than tracking along the fixed, linear sequence typical of texts, OT and IT foster co-creative, participatory, contingent, and ever-emergent experiences. In other words, they mime the way we think. In this lecture I will explore the homology between OT and IT, and their contrast with textual technology, by introducing Agora-theory, a perspective that highlights the kinds of transactions that occur in each verbal marketplace. For example, the oral and electronic marketplaces – the oAgora and eAgora – support “distributed authorship,” a mutual, ongoing brand of co-creation that textual ideology does not permit. Correspondingly, the oAgora and eAgora function not through fossilization and resistance to change, but through built-in, rule-governed variation. The tAgora, on the other hand, supports many different and highly effective textual alternatives for conveying knowledge, art, and ideas through a variety of media-strategies. With the OT-IT homology described, we then go on to consider (a) how it facilitates the representation of oral traditions and (b) how it informs and advances the study and understanding of oral traditions. Along the way there will be brief demonstrations of related projects undertaken by the University of Missouri’s Center for Studies in Oral Tradition and Center for eResearch, including the migration of the journal Oral Tradition to open-access, gratis status on the web; the invention of eEditions and eCompanions; the multimedia Pathways Project; and an announcement of several new initiatives.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Recording Oral Traditions in American Indian Communities: Some Basic Considerations
    (2010-12-10) Field, Margaret
    Oral traditions serve as linguistic structures that help reinforce cultural values and group identity. This is particularly true of American Indian stories that contain moral content, and are typically aimed at young audiences. This paper discusses how such stories, commonly known as ‘coyote stories’, form an important body of knowledge that not only represents cultural values and philosophical orientations, but teaches them to their listeners. Communities view their oral traditions as public evidence of a communal identity, and it is therefore incumbent upon academics to find ways to build bridges between existing bodies of scholarship and the needs of traditionally oral communities to assure the future of their identities. Multimedia formats are particularly suited to this purpose in that they work to bridge pre-literate languages with contemporary contexts. This paper will discuss these issues in relation to the Kumiai community and endangered language of Baja California, Mexico, where a collaborative project aims to create multimedia teaching materials for use in community schools.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Cultural Bureaucracy and the Manufacture of Ifugao Oral Literature
    (2010-12-10) Blench, Roger
    The Philippines is extremely rich in oral literature genres, in particular elaborate epic recitations. When UNESCO was seeking ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ in Southeast Asia, it chose the hudhud epics of the Ifugao people of Northern Luzon based on a recording by a professional performance group rather than by actual hudhud performers. Consequently, there are now substantial offices manned by civil servants intent on ensuring that the only versions of hudhud that are disseminated correspond to the requirements of the urban elites. The choice of hudhud is unfortunate in many ways, since non-hudhud genres—and there is a wide variety of oral literature among the Ifugao and all neighbouring communities—have been almost entirely ignored. Also virtually unreported is the use of musical instruments to ‘talk’, a once widespread practice that is now almost extinct. This paper will discuss fieldwork to record, transcribe, translate and archive these remarkable genres.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Multiple Audiences and Co-curation: Linking an Ethnographic Archive to Contemporary Contexts
    (2010-12-10) Aston, Judith; Matthews, Paul
    This paper reports on a collaborative project between the authors and the historical anthropologist, Wendy James. The authors are developing strategies through which James’s fieldwork recordings from the Sudan/Ethiopian borderlands can be digitized and archived in such a way as to make them relevant to contemporary contexts. Most of the original recordings are in the Uduk language, but there is also material in other minority tongues, as well as national languages. While this archive needs to be relevant to academic users and the wider general public, most particularly it must be relevant to the people themselves who are now starting to document their own experiences. A key issue to be discussed is how to embed the context of James’s work within the archive without prejudicing these aims and her voice. It is also important that these materials are seen as belonging to a wider set of regional records from Northeast Africa linked to diaspora communities now living in various parts of the world.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Recording Verbal Art Performance with Handheld Equipment: The Preparatory Phase in Africa
    (2010-12-10) Aalders, Henri
    The recording of oral tradition performances aims at a full and complete document of performances that are given by storytellers belonging to a specific tribe, village or clan. The purpose of the recording is to enable multi-disciplinary analysis. Ideally, these stories are performed and recorded in an intimate setting. Registration or recording involves, by definition, disturbing the conditions in which the verbal art is normally performed. Local conditions will differ in the extent that they accept disturbances. The larger the amount of technical equipment, the larger the disturbance will likely be. Anthropological recordings should be realised with a minimum amount of disturbance and with equipment that is as non-obtrusive as possible. Small scale, contemporary HD video cameras and microphones can now deliver recordings of sufficient quality to enable thorough analysis. This paper will explore the use of project management principles in the recording of verbal art performances and also address practical issues born from extensive experience in this area.
  • ItemOpen Access
    World Oral Literature Project 2010 Workshop poster
    (2010-07-14) Turin, Mark
    This workshop explores key issues around the dissemination of oral literature through traditional and digital media. Funding agencies, including our own Supplemental Grants Programme, now encourage fieldworkers to return copies of their work to source communities, in addition to requiring researchers to deposit their collections in institutional repositories. But thanks to ever greater digital connectivity, wider internet access and affordable multimedia recording technologies, the locus of dissemination and engagement has grown beyond that of researcher and research subject to include a diverse constituency of global users, such as migrant workers, indigenous scholars, policymakers and journalists, to name but a few.