Research, Training & Collaboration : Workshops

Charting Vanishing Voices: A Collaborative Workshop to Map Endangered Oral Cultures:
World Oral Literature Project 2012 Workshop

Friday, 29 June and Saturday, 30 June 2012
Location: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)


Click here to visit the workshop website
Click here to download a PDF of the workshop poster
Click here to download the final programme

A two-day collaborative workshop bringing together scholars, digital archivists and international organisations to share experiences of mapping ethno-linguistic diversity using interactive digital technologies.

There is a growing sense of public and scholarly concern about the future of orally transmitted knowledge in the face of rapid socio-economic change. Linguists have responded decisively to the threatened disappearance of many endangered speech forms by embarking on urgent documentation projects, training a new generation of field linguists, and partnering with members of speech communities invested in the preservation and revitalisation of their threatened tongues. Many such collaborations result in visually-rich digital outputs with geospatial components, and represent research findings through web interfaces that use sophisticated protocols to ensure that online access is granted at the appropriate level. Similarly, anthropologists are working with technologists and communities of origin to develop platforms for curating and disseminating cultural heritage in ways that reflect and respond to local needs.

This practical workshop brought university-based researchers in anthropology, geography and linguistics into conversation with representatives from international agencies and organisations that aggregate and disseminate large holdings of ethnographic and linguistic data. Through brief presentations and extended discussions, participants explored innovative ways of visualising cultural and linguistic diversity and shared appropriate techniques and tools for representing endangerment, both cartographically and geospatially.

Presentations were clustered into thematic panels that addressed representations of traditional knowledge in digital domains; online anthropology and digital collections; geospatial tools and community activism; speech atlases and language maps from institutional and community perspectives; and a session focussed on visualisation tools used by language archives. Alongside scholars representing leading research programmes in these fields, we were joined by colleagues from UNESCO, Ethnologue and Alexander Street Press. The workshop opened with a lecture and exhibition by Tim Brookes of the Endangered Alphabets Project.

Workshop presenters and participants included:

Mr Tim Brookes (Endangered Alphabets) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Dr Lyle Campbell (University of Hawai'i) [abstract]
Dr Sebastian Drude (Max Planck Intitute for Psycholinguistics) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Dr Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers, Cambridge) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Mr Stacey Maples (Yale University) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Dr Christopher Moseley (UNESCO) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Mr Martin Raymond (SIL International) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Mr Sandy Ritchie, Dr Graham Ritchie and Miss Samantha Goodchild (SOAS; European Bioinformatics Institute) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Ms Joséphine Simonnot (Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie) [abstract] [Listen to audio]
Dr Nicholas Thieberger (University of Melbourne) [abstract] [Listen to audio]

Archiving Orality and Connecting with Communities:
World Oral Literature Project 2010 Workshop

Friday, 10 December and Saturday, 11 December 2010
Location: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), 17 Mill Lane, University of Cambridge


Click here to visit the workshop website
Click here for the final programme

18 December 2010: The workshop was a great success and widely attended. We apologise to those of you who wanted to attend but whom we could not accommodate, and hope that our online resources below will be of interest.

The 2010 workshop explored key issues around the dissemination of oral literature through traditional and digital media. Funding agencies, including our own Fieldwork 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.

Workshop presenters and participants included:

Mr Henri Aalders (The Voices of Africa Media Foundation, The Netherlands) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Judith Aston and Mr Paul Matthews (University of the West of England, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Margaret Field (San Diego State University, United States) [abstract] [watch video]
Professor John Miles Foley (University of Missouri, United States) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Jorge Gómez Rendón (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Jan Jansen (Leiden University, The Netherlands) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Madan Meena (Independent Researcher) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Daniela Merolla (Leiden University, The Netherlands) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Ha Mingzong (Charles University, Czech Republic) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr David Nathan (Endangered Language Archive, School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Mr Sachindev P.S. (Mudugar-Kurumbar Research Centre, India) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr K Inyani Simala (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Uranchimeg Ujeed (University of Cambridge, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Elizabeth Wickett (Independent Scholar) [abstract] [watch video]

Call for Papers:

When new publics consume, manipulate and connect with field recordings and digital archives holding linguistic and cultural content, their involvement raises interesting practical and ethical questions. We welcomed proposals that addressed some of the following issues:

  • What kinds of political repercussions may result from studying marginalised languages or from working with the custodians of endangered oral traditions?
  • How can online tools help ensure responsible access to sensitive cultural materials?
  • Who should control decisions over how digitised heritage material is to be accessed, curated and understood?
  • How can researchers remain true to the fluidity of performance over time and avoid fossilisation in the creation of their digital documents?
  • When archives become primary sites for interaction and discussion rather than static repositories of heritage data, how do relationships between collections and their users change?

Building on discussions around orality and textuality, participants reflected on the politics of ownership of cultural recordings that are increasingly born digital or even birthed directly into an archive. The workshop brought together ethnographers, field linguists, community activists, curators, archivists, librarians and our project's own grantees.

Click here to download a PDF of the poster advertising the workshop [5.6 MB].

Professor John Miles Foley (W.H. Byler Chair in the Humanities; Curators Professor of Classical Studies and English; Director, Center for Studies in Oral Tradition; Director, Center for eResearch and Editor, Oral Tradition) from the University of Missouri kindly agreed to be our keynote speaker and principal discussant. Please click here to view an abstract of his keynote entitled 'Oral Tradition and the Internet'.

The workshop convenors are grateful to CRASSH, the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU) and the Department of Social Anthropology for providing logistical and financial support, and for the cooperation of the new NWO Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres network.

World Oral Literature Project 2009 Workshop
with a focus on collections from the Asia-Pacific

Tuesday, 15 December and Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Location: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), 17 Mill Lane, University of Cambridge

This two-day workshop, organised by the World Oral Literature Project, brought together established scholars, early career researchers and graduate students with indigenous researchers, museum curators, archivists and audio-visual experts to discuss strategies for collecting, recording, preserving and disseminating oral literatures and endangered narrative traditions. In view of the diversity of current research initiatives on the oral literatures of the Asia-Pacific, and the geographical strengths of Cambridge-based scholars, the workshop had a broad focus on this region. Specific sessions were held on the Himalayas (India and Nepal), High Asia (China, Mongolia and Tibet) and the Pacific (Vanuatu).

The workshop provided a collaborative environment for scholars to present, discuss and be exposed to new techniques and fieldwork methodologies. Topics included the ethical responsibilities of researchers, their engagements with local communities as partners, the place of western universities as archival repositories of living traditions and sites of interaction for indigenous communities, and the role of local digital archives and community cultural centres in knowledge transfer, teaching and research. All of the workshop presentations and abstracts have now been archived to DSpace@Cambridge. To access them, please click on the links below.

In parallel, we hosted the second meeting of the ‘Ritual Speech in the Himalayas’ working group, participants of which presented on their research and publishing projects to those attending the World Oral Literature Project workshop.

Workshop presenters and participants included:

Professor Peter Austin (SOAS, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Katey Blumenthal (University of Virginia, USA) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Lissant Bolton (British Museum) [abstract] [watch video]
Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey (Publisher and Archivist)
Elin Stangeland (DSpace, University Library, Cambridge, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Professor Ruth Finnegan (Open University, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Professor Martin Gaenszle (University of Vienna, Austria) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Stephen Hugh-Jones (King’s College, Cambridge, UK) [abstract] [audio]
Dr Christopher Kaplonski (MIASU, University of Cambridge, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Professor Alan Macfarlane (King’s College, Cambridge, UK)
David Nathan (Director, Endangered Languages Archive, SOAS, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Professor Michael Oppitz (University of Zürich, Switzerland) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Carole Pegg (University of Cambridge, UK; Inner Asian Music & 7-Star Records) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Judith Pettigrew (University of Limerick, Republic of Ireland) [abstract] [watch video]
Gerald Roche (Griffin University, Austrilia; Qinghai Normal University, China) [abstract] [watch video]
Dr Anne de Sales (CNRS, Paris, France) [abstract] [watch video] [watch video]
Dr Sara Shneiderman (St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Alban von Stockhausen (University of Zürich, Switzerland) [abstract] [watch video] [watch video]
Professor William Sutherland (Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK) [abstract] [watch video]
Yarjung Kromchai Tamu (Chief Advisor, Tamu Pye Lhu Sangh) [abstract] [watch video]

This workshop was made possible by generous support from C-SAP, the Onaway Trust and the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research.