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World Oral Literature Project

World Oral Literature Project

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The World Oral Literature Project is 'an urgent global initiative to document and disseminate endangered oral literatures before they disappear without record'. Directed by Dr Mark Turin
Mark Turin
Mark Turin is a linguist and anthropologist specialised in the Himalayas. After completing his BA in Anthropology and Archaeology from the University of Cambridge , he documented the Thangmi language spoken in Nepal and northern India for his doctoral research through the Himalayan Languages...

 and co-located at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, at the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 and Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, the project was established in January 2009.

Primary objective


The World Oral Literature Project provides small grants to fund the collecting of oral literature
Oral literature
Oral literature corresponds in the sphere of the spoken word to literature as literature operates in the domain of the written word. It thus forms a generally more fundamental component of culture, but operates in many ways as one might expect literature to do...

, with a particular focus on the peoples of Asia and the Pacific, and on areas of cultural disturbance. In addition, the Project hosts training workshops for grant recipients and other engaged scholars. The World Oral Literature Project also publishes oral texts and occasional papers, and makes collections of oral traditions accessible through online media platforms such as Cambridge Streaming Media Service and DSpace
DSpace
DSpace is an open source software package that provides the tools for management of digital assets, and is commonly used as the basis for an institutional repository. It supports a wide variety of data, including books, theses, 3D digital scans of objects, photographs, film, video, research data...

.

Ongoing research


The first six funded projects have been successfully completed, and twelve other projects have been awarded grants by the Review Board for fieldwork to be conducted between 2010 and 2012.

Online collections


The World Oral Literature Project collects data gathered by grantees and anthropology fieldworkers as well as historic collections. This data is primarily audio and visual files that are either born digital or are digitised by the Project. This material is archived using DSpace
DSpace
DSpace is an open source software package that provides the tools for management of digital assets, and is commonly used as the basis for an institutional repository. It supports a wide variety of data, including books, theses, 3D digital scans of objects, photographs, film, video, research data...

 and, where culturally appropriate, disseminated to the public through the World Oral Literature Project websites and streaming media services.

Occasional Paper series


An Occasional Paper series was set up by the World Oral Literature Project to allow for the fast dissemination of research findings and methodological considerations in the collection of oral literature. The aim is that the series will allow scholars and local researchers to disseminate their work and data sets through a peer-review process. These papers are available as a free download in PDF format. The project welcomes expressions of interest from researchers working in the area of oral literature and language endangerment.

Papers published by the World Oral Literature Project and Open Book Publishers:
  • Faroese skjaldur: An endangered oral tradition of the North Atlantic by Dr Stephen Pax Leonard, a Research Fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge
    Trinity Hall, Cambridge
    Trinity Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is the fifth-oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich.- Foundation :...

    .

  • The Sabah Oral Literature Project by George N Appell, Ph.D,

  • The Epic of Pabuji ki par in Performance by Dr Elizabeth Wickett.

  • From Oral Literature to Technauriture: What’s in a Name? by Professor Russell Kaschula and Mr Andre Mostert.

Database


Researchers at the World Oral Literature Project have compiled a database of language endangerment levels, including references to collections and recordings of oral literature that exist in archives around the world. Data on language endangerment are drawn from the online Ethnologue, the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger and from the work of conservation biologist Professor William Sutherland in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge.

The database is free for public use, and is designed to be easily searchable.

Board members


The Executive Board of the World Oral Literature Project is chaired by Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey
Chadwyck-Healey Baronets
The Chadwyck-Healey Baronetcy, of Wyphurst in the County of Surrey, is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 6 May 1919 for the lawyer Charles Chadwyck-Healey. He died in the same year and his eldest son inherited the baronetcy, becoming the second Baronet...

. Board members are Professor Alan Macfarlane
Alan Macfarlane
Alan Donald James Macfarlane FBA FRHistS is a renowned anthropologist and historian and a Professor Emeritus of King's College, Cambridge. He is the author or editor of 20 books and numerous articles on the anthropology and history of England, Nepal, Japan and China. He has focused on comparative...

, FBA; Professor Barry Supple
Barry Supple
Barry Emanuel Supple, CBE, FBA , is Emeritus Professor of Economic History, University of Cambridge, and a former Director of the Leverhulme Trust...

, CBE, FBA; Gillian Tett
Gillian Tett
Gillian Tett is a British author and award-winning journalist at the Financial Times, where she is the US managing editor She has written about the financial instruments that were part of the cause of the financial crisis that started in the fourth quarter of 2007, such as CDOs, credit default...

 and Stefan Kosciuszko. The World Oral Literature Project Advisory Board is an international network of experts who have agreed to give the Executive Board meaningful help.

Workshops


On 15–16 December 2009, the World Oral Literature Project held its first annual workshop, with a focus on Asia and the Pacific, at CRASSH
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities
The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities is an interdisciplinary research centre within the University of Cambridge for collaboration between researchers from the arts, social sciences and humanities...

, University of Cambridge. It 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.

The 2010 workshop was held on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 December. It examined some of the key issues around the dissemination of oral literature through traditional and digital media. Building on discussions around orality and textualisation, participants reflected on the politics of ownership of cultural recordings that are increasingly born digital or even birthed directly into an archive. Ethnographers, field linguists, community activists, curators, archivists and librarians exchanged ideas at this second workshop.

The keynote speaker and principal discussant was Professor John Miles Foley
John Miles Foley
John Miles Foley Is a scholar of comparative oral tradition, medieval and Old English Literature , Ancient Greek and Serbian epic. He is the founder of the academic journal Oral Tradition and the at the University of Missouri, where he is Curators' Professor of Classical Studies and English and...

 from the University of Missouri.

The 2012 workshop, entitled 'Charting Vanishing Voices: A Collaborative Workshop to Map Endangered Oral Cultures', will be held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities
The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities is an interdisciplinary research centre within the University of Cambridge for collaboration between researchers from the arts, social sciences and humanities...

, Cambridge on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June.

Press coverage


The University of Cambridge Office of External Affairs and Communications released a press statement about the project on 27 August 2009.

The World Oral Literature Project has received widespread international media coverage, including the following articles and radio and television interviews:

The Guardian
The Telegraph
BBC Radio Wales: Good Morning Wales
BBC Radio 4: Word of Mouth
The Daily Telegraph
BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC World TV
The Calcutta Telegraph
Times Higher Education
The Guardian (Education)
BBC Three Counties Radio

See also

  • Oral literature
    Oral literature
    Oral literature corresponds in the sphere of the spoken word to literature as literature operates in the domain of the written word. It thus forms a generally more fundamental component of culture, but operates in many ways as one might expect literature to do...

  • Oral tradition
    Oral tradition
    Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

  • Orality
    Orality
    Orality is thought and verbal expression in societies where the technologies of literacy are unfamiliar to most of the population. The study of orality is closely allied to the study of oral tradition...

  • Linguistic anthropology
    Linguistic anthropology
    Linguistic anthropology is the interdisciplinary study of how language influences social life. It is a branch of anthropology that originated from the endeavor to document endangered languages, and has grown over the past 100 years to encompass almost any aspect of language structure and...

  • Anthropological linguistics
    Anthropological linguistics
    Anthropological linguistics is the study of the relations between language and culture and the relations between human biology, cognition and language...


External links