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

Oral Literature in the Digital Age: Archiving Orality and Connecting with Communities Mark Turin, Claire Wheeler and Eleanor Wilkinson (eds)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-909254-30-5 £15.95
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-909254-31-2 £29.95
PDF ISBN: 978-1-909254-32-9 £0.00
epub ISBN: 978-1-909254-33-6 £5.95
mobi ISBN: 978-1-909254-34-3 £5.95

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This book addresses a vitally important topic of considerable interest to a broad group of readers.
—Dr. Mick Gowar, Anglia Ruskin University

All these contributors, like the editors themselves, are devoted to finding creative, accessible and usable digital platforms that not only close the distance between users, researchers and the tools used to archive oral literature, but also continue to connect, foster and sustain relationships with indigenous communities and those who try to access their rich and rapidly disappearing cultures. [...] This international and frank discussion enables us to deeply engage with the important issues that constantly surface in the field. [...] the authors' transparency and willingness to discuss their challenges provide readers with important insights into the imperfect but necessary efforts being made to preserve endangered oral literatures and protect intangible cultural heritage.
—Stacey Zembryzcki, Oral History, Autumn 2014

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.

The content of this book is also available on Wikisource.

Oral Literature in the Digital Age is the second volume in our World Oral Literature Series. The Series is produced in conjunction with the World Oral Literature Project.

Oral Literature in the Digital Age: Archiving Orality and Connecting with Communities
Mark Turin, Claire Wheeler and Eleanor Wilkinson (eds) | May 2013
190 | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
World Oral Literature Series,vol. 2 | ISSN: 2050-7933 (Print); 2054-362X (Online)
ISBN Paperback: 9781909254305
ISBN Hardback: 9781909254312
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781909254329
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781909254336
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781909254343
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0032
BIC subject codes: JHMC (Social and cultural anthropology, ethnography), HBTD (Oral history), JFHF (Folklore, myths and legends), JFSL9 (Indigenous peoples), CFB (Sociolinguistics); BISAC subject codes: SOC002010 (Cultural & Social anthropology), SOC005000 (Social science / Customs & Traditions); OCLC Number: 1133285149.

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Table of Contents

Mark Turin, Claire Wheeler and Eleanor Wilkinson

Part 1. Principles and Methods of Archiving and Conservation
1. The Archive Strikes Back: Effects of Online Digital Language Archiving on Research Relations and Property Rights
Thomas Widlok

2. Access and Accessibility at ELAR, A Social Networking Archive for Endangered Languages Documentation
David Nathan

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

Part 2. Engagements and Reflections from the Field
4. Researchers as Griots? Reflections on Multimedia Fieldwork in West Africa
Daniela Merolla and Felix Ameka in collaboration with Kofi Dorvlo

5. American Indian Oral Literature, Cultural Identity and Language Revitalisation: Some Considerations for Researchers
Margaret Field

6. Ecuador's Indigenous Cultures: Astride Orality and Literacy
Jorge Gómez Rendón

7. From Shrine to Stage: A Personal Account of the Challenges of Archiving the Tejaji Ballad of Rajasthan
Madan Meena

8. Mongghul Ha Clan Oral History Documentation
Ha Mingzong, Ha Mingzhu, and C.K. Stuart


Mark Turin is a linguistic anthropologist specialising in the Himalayas. He is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and serves as Chair of the First Nations Languages Program. He also directs the World Oral Literature Project and the Digital Himalaya Project, both of which are co-located at Cambridge and Yale universities. He is the author or co-author of four books, three travel guides, and the editor of nine volumes, including the Open Book titles The Politics of Language Contact in the Himalaya (with Selma K. Sonntag) and Searching for Sharing: Heritage and Multimedia in Africa (with Daniela Merolla). Mark also edits the World Oral Literature Series with OBP. He tweets @markturin. Email: mark.turin@ubc.ca

Claire Wheeler, previously a Research Assistant at the World Oral Literature Project, is now a Research Assistant at King's College, London. She has a background in Modern and Medieval Languages, educational publishing and teaching English as a foreign language.

Eleanor Wilkinson is a Research Assistant at the World Oral Literature Project. She has a background in ancient languages and culture, and has previously worked as a freelance collections assistant after completing her MA in Museum Studies.

Felix K. Ameka
is a Professor of African linguistics at Leiden University.

Judith Aston is a Senior Lecturer in Film-making and Creative Media at UWE Bristol, and a co-director of i-Docs.

Margaret Field is Professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University

Paul Matthews is currently Senior Lecturer within the Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies at the University of the West of England. 

Daniela Merolla is a Lecturer of African Literatures and Media at the Department of African Languages and Cultures at Leiden University. 

Mingzhu Ha is, at present, a student at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.

Mingzong Ha, under the University of Cambridge, ran a project on the oral history tradition in the Qinghai and Gansu provinces in China.

David Nathan previously held under a position at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, and is now the Director of the Endangered Languages Archive under the Endangered Languages Project.

Thomas Widlok
is a Professor of African Studies at the University of Cologne.

Jorge Gómez Rendón is a Lecturer of the Department of Literature at Andean University and an Associate Professor of the Department of Linguistics and Communication at the Catholic University of Ecuador, Quito. Additionally, he is also an Associate Researcher to the Amsterdam Centre for Language and Communication in the Department of Theoretical Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam.