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Posts from the ‘Folklore Studies’ Category

#AFSAM19: Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China

Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County E

A title slide showing key project sites in the Dong areas of Guangxi and Guizhou.

Shreds and Patches has been quieter than usual as I work my way through a really complicated semester. In the midst of the jumble of unforeseen circumstances, there are some good things actually happening according to plan. One of these was the most recent in a series of panels at the American Folklore Society Annual Meetings reporting on the work of the museum partners in the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project. Earlier this month, at the start of the 2019 meeting in Baltimore, members of our group, presented a panel on “Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.” This is the panel abstract:

In a three-year phase of the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, researchers from six museums have collaborated in a bi-national program of ethnographic research in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In this panel, project participants will report on the research, sometimes emphasizing textile practices such as embroidery and basketry, sometimes focusing on heritage issues, sometimes discussing the lessons of the collaboration. The presenters will share their findings in accessible ways but China specialists may wish to know that research has taken place among the Dong people of Sanjiang County and the Baiku Yao people living in Nandan County.

Carrie HERTZ (Museum of International Folk Art) presented on “The Fabric of Life: Baiku Yao Textiles in Huaili Village.”

Hertz - The Fabric of Life

A title slide related to the textile arts of the Baiku Yao people of Nandan County, Guangxi.

FAN Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) presented in absentia on “Field Research on Dong Textiles in the Tongle Area of Sanjiang County.”

Micah J. LING (Indiana University) shared her paper “Mijiu and Mai Wup: Trilingual Fieldwork and an Indigo Dying Method.”

LIANG Ziaoyan (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), also presenting in absentia, shared her paper “Imagination and Enlargement: Daily Performance and Life History in Ethnographic Video.” Her paper focused on her experiences in our work in Sanjiang County.

C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum) presented a paper that he and I, with help from ZHANG Lijun (George Mason University), worked on together titled: “Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.”

I (Jason Baird Jackson, Indiana University) presented a paper for which Lijun was co-author. It was about “Building a Museum Collection of Work Baskets in Northern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.” The paper focused on the collection of baskets assembled for the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

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A slide evoking in basketry collected for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

The session concluded with a presentation of a film by Jon Kay (Indiana University) titled “A Rice Basket: Basketmaking in a Baiku Yao Community” It is now viewable online on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/QrD_-lrB9UY

This session, and one that preceded it in 2018, will be a springboard for more sustained writing by many project participants. We have learned much during our collaborative work in Guangxi. I thank many the local people in Nandan and Sanjiang Counties who have taught us and our hosts and partners at the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi. Special thanks also go to The Henry Luce Foundation, the China Folklore Society, and the American Folklore Society for their support of the broader projects of which ours museum and material culture efforts are just a part.

 

 

 

Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community: A Giving Heritage

It is a great moment for a great project. Some Shreds and Patches readers will remember when, in 2017, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures hosted the special exhibition A Giving Heritage: Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community. After debuting at the MMWC, this exhibition, developed in a partnership between the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (Sam Noble Museum) and the Osage Nation Museum, went on to be presented at the Osage Nation Museum. Now, the exhibition is on view, in an extended version, at the Sam Noble Museum. The Sam Noble Museum has organized a rich series of programs to accompany the exhibition, including a special community reception for citizens of the Osage Nation on November 1st. Dan Swan, the Interim Director and Curator for Ethnology at the Sam Noble Museum, served as lead curator for the exhibition.

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Unboxing my copy of Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community. October 21, 2019.

I return to this exhibition not only because it is now on display at its originating institution but because the book Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community: A Giving Heritage, which stands alone but which also serves as a companion to the exhibition, has just been published by Indiana University Press in the Material Vernaculars series that I edit. The series has been a joint endeavor of the museum and the press. Wedding Clothes is the fifth title to appear in the series. As noted in other posts, MV titles are produced in paper editions sold by the press but also in free-to-readers versions shared digitally via the IUScholarWorks Repository. (It will may take a month or so for the free edition to be posted.) Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community was co-authored by Swan and Jim Cooley and includes a foreword by Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear.

My copy of the book arrived today and this is, hands-down, one of the most beautiful books that I have ever seen. IU Press went above and beyond with this one and it is really incredible to hold and to read as a book artifact. The book is filled with great images and they have been reproduced exquisitely on excellent paper. This is the first MV title to be printed in offset. That will not usually be possible with other MV titles, but in this case, with the exhibition and high Osage interest in play, the press was able to take this extra step. I urge everyone to find and enjoy a paper copy. Ideally purchase one. I know that $32 seems like a lot, but when you are holding this book, you will see and know that it is, unlike with so many academic titles, worth it.

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Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community makes its debut at the IU Press booth at the 2019 American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. October 17, 2019.

The book is more than a pretty object though. It is a rich historical and ethnographic account of Osage life. I really hope that you will devote time to reading this book. The investment will be rewarded. Gift giving is a key theme in Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community. I hope that you will receive the gift of this book.

(I will share news of the free edition when it is posted.)

“Framing Sukkot” Author, Curator Gabrielle Berlinger to Speak at MMWC

At the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, we have already had some very special public events at this fall semester. If you’ve attended some of these events, you surely want to keep going with a good thing. If you’ve missed out so for, you have a chance to get in the groove with a number of upcoming programs. You can find the whole schedule on our website here: https://mathersmuseum.indiana.edu/events1/index.html, but in this post I want to highlight our next Curator’s Talk, this time with Gabrielle Berlinger, Curator of the new exhibition Remembering the Ephemeral: the Ritual Architecture of Sukkot in Contemporary Life. Find the details in the flyer image below.

In addition to what the flyer notes, I will add that Professor Berlinger is an IU graduate who earned her PhD in Folklore, with a minor in Jewish Studies. She serves as an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Folklore and the Babette S. and Bernard J. Tanenbaum Fellow in Jewish History and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (see here for details). She is the author of a great book published in the Material Vernaculars series that the museum co-publishes with Indiana University Press. That book, titled Framing Sukkot, is described on the press’ website here: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808979 and a free-to-readers edition is available in IUScholarWorks: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/21232. Gabi also generously serves on the museum’s Policy Committee.

Gabi is a great speaker and it will be wonderful to welcome her back to Bloomington and the MMWC. Please join us.

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“At Home and Abroad: Reflections on Collaborative Museum Ethnography at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures”

I am happy to note the publication of a paper in Museum Anthropology reporting on, and considering, the work of two collaborative projects of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. This piece is: Jason Baird Jackson (2019) “At Home and Abroad: Reflections on Collaborative Museum Ethnography at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.” Museum Anthropology 42 (2): 62-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/muan.12210

Experiments in collaboration are at the heart of contemporary museum anthropology and museum folklore. If you are interested in issues of collaboration in museums of ethnography and world cultures, take note of the upcoming Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) biannual meeting being held in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the theme of “Museums Different” (September 19-21, 2019). [I wish I could go!] Collaboration was also the theme of the recent conference that the MMWC co-hosted with its partners in Beijing. The program of that conference on “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” is available online on the American Folklore Society website (see Conference Seven here).

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I usually work hard not to publish behind a paywall. There were CMA-suporting reasons that I did so in this case. Be in touch if I can be of help on that score.

The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies

The following is a report on The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies (第七届中美民俗学与非物质文化遗产论坛: 博物馆民俗与遗产研究的协作工作). The version of record appears on the website of the American Folklore Society. This version adds more images. You can find a copy of the conference program here. –Jason Baird Jackson (杰森. 拜尔德. 杰克逊)

During three beautiful spring days in Beijing, a group of Chinese and American scholars and cultural workers gathered to discuss practices of collaboration in folklore studies and intangible cultural heritage work, with a focus on collaborations between ethnographic museums and between such museums and other groups in society. Held on May 19-22, 2019, this was the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage, one of a long-running series of conferences organized cooperatively by the China Folklore Society (CFS) and the American Folklore Society (AFS), as part of a broader binational collaboration begun in 2007. These forums have explored various aspects of cultural heritage policy, practice, and theory, giving US and Chinese participants an opportunity to learn about the state of the field as pursued in the national context that is not their own (Lloyd 2017).

This Seventh Forum, focusing on Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, was held at the Indiana University China Gateway office in Beijing. Meeting under the auspices of the CFS and the AFS, the conference’s program was organized by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi (Guangxi Museum of Nationalities), with extensive logistical and practical support provided by the two societies and the gateway office staff. Generous financial support was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs at Indiana University.

Delegates to the forum came from a diversity of American and Chinese museums and universities. Chinese institutions represented included the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, Beijing Normal University, the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, East China Normal University, Fudan University, the Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Minzu University of China, Shandong University, and the Yunnan Nationalities Museum. American institutions represented included the Michigan State University Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, Texas Tech University, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Indiana University), History Miami, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (University of Oklahoma), and the American Folklore Society (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage held at the Indiana University Gateway Office in Beijing, May 19, 2019. Shu Caiqian (Guizhou Nationalities Museum), Zhang Yibing (Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Zhu Gang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Li Mingjie (East China Normal University), Wang Wei (Shandong University), Jessica Anderson Turner (American Folklore Society), An Deming (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Luo Wenhong (Fudan University), Marsha MacDowell (Michigan State University Museum), Surna (Minzu University of China), Kristin Otto (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Felicia Katz-Harris (Museum of International Folk Art), Sarah Hatcher (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Yang Lihui (Beijing Normal University), Lu Chaoming (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Chen Xi (Sun Yet-sen University), Carrie Hertz (Museum of International Folk Art), Chao Gejin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Wuerxiya (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Fan Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum), Yang Quanzhong (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), He Chun (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Michael Paul Jordan (Texas Tech University), Wu Dawei (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Ou Bo (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Michael Knoll (History Miami), Lan Yuanyuan (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Jon Kay (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Luo Yong (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Mai Xi (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Zhao Fei (Yunnan Nationalities Museum), Wang Yucheng (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi).

On the afternoon of May 19, the conference began with warm words of welcome from AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner and CFS Past President Chao Gajin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), standing in for current CFS President Ye Tao (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) who was unable to attend (Figure 2). Also offering brief opening remarks on behalf of the program committee were Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures) and Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) (Figure 3). These remarks preceded the forum’s keynote address by C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum). Extending an earlier discussion of principles for museum collaboration (Dewhurt and MacDowell 2015), Dewhurt reflected on a range of museum collaborations in which he and the MSU Museum have participated. Among the collaborations that Dewhurst addressed were earlier phases of the AFS-CFS partnership, which has included two museum sub-projects (2013-2016; 2017-2019). The first of these encompassed the Fifth and Sixth forum events, the traveling exhibition and bilingual catalogue Quilts of Southwest China (MacDowell and Zhang 2015), and numerous other elements (Lloyd 2017). In this phase, three Chinese museums and three US museums partnered together (Dewhurst and Lloyd 2019). In the more recent phase, collaborators from the three U.S. museums have joined with the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi for a program of joint research focused on textiles and intangible cultural heritage policy in two northern counties of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Central to this new phase of work are the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum and the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum. Thus, while Dewhurst’s keynote was a general reflection on museum collaboration, his presentation also served to orient conferees to the specific joint AFS-CFS supported projects that gave the forum its organizational context.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion in which representatives from the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum and Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum described their work and the community and organizational collaborations in which they participate (Figure 4). American participants appreciated this opportunity to learn about the innovative work of these ecomuseums first-hand and drew comparisons to various kind of community-based museums in the US. While Chinese delegates were more knowledgeable about the form that ecomuseums take in China, they also appreciated the chance to engage with the ecomuseum leaders directly in a comparative scholarly context.

It was an honor that many Beijing-based leaders in the CFS and in Chinese folklore studies overall could attend these opening events, which also included a welcoming banquet generously hosted by the CFS. This gathering was enlivened further when the leaders of the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum introduced both Dong flute music and toasting songs to the group. For many American delegates, this was a memorable first experience with the richness of Chinese banquet customs and the beauty of Dong music (Figure 5).

The second day of the conference was a full day featuring presentations from Chinese and American delegates. In line with the goals of the forum, the presenters described specific museum collaboration projects, using them as the basis for broader reflections on the work of museum ethnography and heritage studies today. Translation for most conference presentations was very ably done by Chen Xi (Sun Yat-sen University) and Luo Wenhong (Fudan University) (Figure 6). A number of themes emerged through the juxtaposition of presentations throughout the conference. These included: (1) the nature of museum-based ethnographic and exhibition projects in urban contexts, (2) the dynamics unique to heritage-oriented fieldwork pursued across differences of language, culture, and institutional context, (3) the place of objects and material culture studies within museum collaborations, (4) the use of exhibitions as catalysts for broader collaborations and relationship building, (5) the value of older museum collections for contemporary communities and craftspeople, (6) the place of documentary video in museum ethnography, and (7) the special importance that attaches to national folk costume in diverse museum and local cultural contexts in the current era (Figure 7).

The conference’s third day featured a morning of additional presentations followed by a special outing in which conferees visited Beijing’s Shichahai historic area to learn about cultural preservation and heritage tourism activities centered there (Figures 8-9). Participants enjoyed a hutong tour and a visit to the Drum Towner of Beijing (Gulou). While she could not attend the forum, this outing was curated by Zhang Lijun (George Mason University) and drew upon her folklore research interpreting the narrative performances of hutong tour guides (Zhang 2016, 2019). The conference concluded with a banquet, hosted by AFS and featuring Yunnan cuisine. Highpoints of this concluding gathering were many individual expressions of friendship and goodwill as well as a vigorous singing competition staged between the binational groups gathered around two large banquet tables. Heartfelt singing in Dong, Yao, Mandarin, Mongolian and English brought the seventh forum to a joyful close.

References Cited

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Timothy Lloyd. 2019. “The American Folklore Society-China Folklore Society Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, 2013-2016.” Museum Anthropology Review 13 (1): 59-68. https://doi.org/10.14434/mar.v13i1.25405

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Marsha MacDowell. 2015. “Strategies for Creating and Sustaining Museum-Based International Collaborative Partnerships.” Practicing Anthropology 37 (3): 54–55. https://doi.org/10.17730/0888-4552-37.3.54

Lloyd, Tim. 2017 “The Inside Story of the AFS China-US Project.” https://www.afsnet.org/news/349609/The-Inside-Story-of-the-AFS-China-US-Project.htm, accessed June 12, 2019.

MacDowell, Marsha, and Lijun Zhang, eds. 2016. 中国西南拼布 | Quilts of Southwest China. Nanning: Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. [Distributed in the United States by Indiana University Press.]

Zhang, Lijun. 2016. “Performing Locality and Identity: Rickshaw Driver, Narratives, and Tourism.” Cambridge Journal of China Studies 11 (1): 88-104. https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/260292

Zhang, Lijun. 2019. “A Brief Guide to Shichahai.” Video Presentation Prepared for The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, Beijing, China.

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Figure 2. Figure 2. Chao Gajin welcomes delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 3. Figure 3. Gong Shiyang addresses delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 4. Wu Dawei offers remarks on the work of the Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum during the ecomuseum panel discussion. Left to Right: Lu Chaoming, He Chun, Lan Yuanyuan, Yang Quanzhong, Wu Dawei, Luo Wenhong (translating), Jason Baird Jackson. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 5. Wu Dawei performs Dong flute music at the opening banquet. May 19, 2019. Photograph by C. Kurt Dewhurst.

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Figure 6. Zhang Yibing discusses the work of the Guizhou Nationalities Museum with Luo Wenhong providing English translation.. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 7. Carrie Hertz discusses research related to the exhibition Dressing with Purpose. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 8. Surna discusses her research on Mongol national dress. May 21, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 9. Lan Yuanyuan and He Chun begin a rickshaw tour of the Shichahai neighborhood in Beijing. May 21, 2019. Photography by Jason Baird Jackson.

Material Culture Journalism, 7

The Material Culture students do not know about Material Culture Journalism yet. Maybe this week I’ll mention it to them. Day one was surely an overload as it was…

“450-Year-Old Painting Contains Over 100 Proverbs We Still Use Today” by Jessica Stewart on My Modern Met. (HT/BKG) https://mymodernmet.com/dutch-proverbs-pieter-bruegel #paremiology

“The Era of Easy Recycling Coming to an End” by Maggie Koerth-Baker for FiveThirtyEight. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-era-of-easy-recycling-may-be-coming-to-an-end/ #waste

“China’s Destructive Laser Rifle has a Half-Mile Range” by Jefrey Lin and P.W. Singer for Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/china-laser-rifle-energy-weapon #conflict

“Never mind killer robots—here are six real AI dangers to watch out for in 2019” by Will Knight and Karen Has for MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612689/never-mind-killer-robotshere-are-six-real-ai-dangers-to-watch-out-for-in-2019/ #threats

“Persian Traditional Crafts: Traditional Bookbinding” on YouTube (Seen First on on Facebook). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgQ-x-1hRQ4&vl=en #handcraft

“The Poor Can’t Afford Not to Wear Nice Clothes” by Tressie McMillan Cottom in Medium. (HT/RG) https://medium.com/s/story/the-poor-cant-afford-not-to-wear-nice-clothes-b015f6a79561 #racism #class #inequality

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CFP: Limitations and Adaptations: Negotiating Aesthetics, Power, and Positionality

I am happy to share the call for papers for the 12th joint student folklore conference organized by the students at Indiana University and the Ohio State University. Save the date and get your plans together to attend in Bloomington.


Limitations and Adaptations: Negotiating Aesthetics, Power, and Positionality
Twelfth Annual IU/OSU Student Folklore Conference
February 22–23, 2019

The Indiana University Folklore Student Association, in collaboration with the Folklore Student Association at the Ohio State University, invites submissions for the twelfth annual Indiana University / Ohio State University student folklore conference to be held in Bloomington, Indiana on February 22–23, 2019. We welcome proposals from folklore, ethnomusicology, and related disciplines. Presenters are encouraged to submit proposals related to the conference theme of “Limitations and Adaptations.” Some questions to consider could include the following:

  • What limits do people face in vernacular cultural production? How are these limits formed or identified? What are the power structures behind them?
  • How do limits shape artistic production?
  • How do people use vernacular cultural production to transcend limits/barriers or to adapt to change/oppression?
  • Does adaptation create or take place in a liminal space?
  • How do people adapt to limitations cross-culturally?
  • How might researchers be limited by factors such as identity, language, and environment? What impact might these limits have on selection, collection, or transmission of research?
  • What is the role of the researcher in either adhering to or pushing back against limitations? Is your project overcoming limitations in some way?

Proposals for papers, posters, roundtables, panels, workshops, and other formats are welcome. All presenters should write a 250-word abstract of their presentations. Prearranged or collective sessions should additionally include a session title, 250-word session abstract, and list contacts for all members of the panel/roundtable, if relevant.

All submissions will be due via google forms by December 30, 2018.

Submission link: https://goo.gl/forms/AX0ngluMRtgLcZZy2

Housing form: https://goo.gl/forms/FnaiT2R7nLOnPMhV2

For additional questions, please contact us at iuosu2019@gmail.com.

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Modalities of Culture Change: A Query

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A hybrid flower photographed by makamuki0 and circulated under a CC0 license. Hybridization as a mode of cultural change was discussed prominently in Theorizing the Hybrid, a 1999 special issue of the Journal of American Folklore edited by Deborah A. Kapchan and Pauline Turner Strong. Like mestatisize, hybridization in the context of cultural analysis draws on biological imagery.

Across the twentieth century, much of the heavy lifting in cultural anthropology, ethnology, and folklore studies was done with key concepts/words that related to identifiable modalities of cultural change. Diffusion was the core concept as these fields entered the twentieth century and a range of additional ones were identified, theorized, applied, refined, debated, etc. as the decades passed. Acculturation occupied a lot of attention, reorienting American cultural anthropology/ethnology in the process. The list grew longer and longer–innovation, socialization, enculturation, modernization, revitalization, missionization, colonization, decolonization, creolization, hybridization, globalization… No one mode of analysis or discourse predominated. Instead scholars in these fields accumulated a storage box of alternatives out of which they could draw at need. Some of these modes of thought and analysis have aged better than others. Some were criticized, some just came to be used less often. Some seem more relevant in the present than others. Most probably have their use now and will have in the future.

But what additional terms or concepts warrant our attention now? Suggestions are very welcome. Here is an example. Deskill. Deskilling. (Deskillification?) I now hear this term many times a week in a range of contexts. It seems like a candidate for possible inscription on the scholarly list of cultural/social change concepts. What about the more poetic transfers into cultural analysis. Borrowed from medicine, metastasize is being used more and more in discussions of cancer-like social processes. In more workaday work, folklorization is now well established as is traditionalization. On this model, it is not surprising that heritagization is also now in widespread use. Are there any comparable core concepts that we have not yet transformed in processual variants? Some terms come towards us from, for instance, the business world. Do folklorists, ethnologists, and cultural anthropologists need to put our own spin on disrupt?

I hope to revisit the lexicon of cultural change concepts in future work. Your suggestions are welcome. (I am certain there is already work by scholars in these fields on many newer modes of culture change, including the examples (deskill, disrupt) I use to illustrate the query. I am interested in that work also.)

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Neuroblastoma Rosettes by Dr. Maria Tsokos, National Cancer Institute [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Although this cancer image is probably visually arresting when taken out of context, use of metastasize in cultural analysis is usually intended to provoke horror and to evoke ill social health. A great example encountered yesterday is in the first paragraph of Emma Louise Backe’s essay “Hau’s Hauntings

At the Estonian National Museum

#fulbrightspecialist #fulbright #exchangeourworld

This is the third of three anticipated posts on my fall 2019 visit to Estonia (1st, 2nd).

A great resource for the University of Tartu’s departments of Estonian Native Craft, of Ethnology, and of Estonian and Comparative Folklore is the Estonian National Museum (ENM). The museum is curates vast collections of relevance to students and researchers in these fields and the museum is a research hub for all them. Founded in 1909, the ENM has a long and distinguished history as an ethnography museum centering on Estonia and, more broadly, all peoples speaking Finno-Ugric languages. It its contexts, the museum’s work centers on an Estonian instance of Northern European ethnology (with Soviet “ethnography” dominating during the period of Soviet hegemony). But not long ago (2016), the museum moved into a dramatic and vast new facility and unveiled a pair of large new permanent exhibitions.

These exhibitions move beyond (but fully include) the ethnography of 19th and early 20th century peasant lifeways. In this mode, the new exhibitions show an additive expansion of the museum’s concerns to include the archaeology of the distant past, historical and contemporary linguistics, social history, and the ethnology of everyday life in the recent period and the present. Especially in its exhibition work, the new museum is working at the cutting edge of museum technology and communication research is a part of the museum’s practice and research agenda.

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The entry to the Estonian National Museum at night. By Klarqa. CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, from Wikimedia Commons

I will not offer a review of the two permanent exhibitions here, but I want to stress how much I learned about museum practice (and about Estonia and Finno-Urgric peoples) from my multiple visits to the museum’s galleries. I was very fortunate to be given introductory tours of both exhibitions by curators who were central to the work of developing them. Encounters tells the story of people in Estonia from the earliest moments of human activity in the territory of the present nation up to the present. Encounters is actually an interconnected suite of topical and chronological sub-exhibitions and I benefited greatly from seeing it first with Kristel Rattus and Liisi Jaats, two ENM researchers/curators who were part of the exhibition development team. Similarly, I saw the Echo of the Urals exhibition with Art Leete, Professor of Ethnology at the University of Tartu and specialist on Finno-Ugric groups in present-day Russia. Art led the curatorial team for the Finno-Ugric exhibition. The two exhibitions use a wide range of sophisticated exhibition techniques and these techniques are markedly different between the two shows, making the ENM an ideal teaching and learning laboratory for museum ethnology.

While I was more learner than teacher in this context, my work at the University of Tartu teaching the short “Material Culture and the Museum” course intersected with the ENM in a couple of ways. Because the ENM is such an attraction and hub for folklore studies and ethnology, (all or almost all) students and auditors in the course were familiar with the museum and it thus could be used as a valuable point of reference in and out of class sessions. More directly, the ENM hosted the 2018 International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography (ICME) conference. I will touch on that below, but I note here that students participating in the course were obligated to attend parts of the ICME meeting, an activity that I feel certain greatly enhanced the overall experience of the course. The conference and my remarks on museum ethnology could have been completely askew, but in actuality there was, I think, an unusually good fit, with the topics that I raised in the initial sessions showing up in richer context in the presentations of ICME keynote speakers and presenters. The new exhibitions and new museum provided a great context for the course and the conference.

ICME is a group within the larger International Committee of Museums (ICOM). ICOM is the UNESCO-affiliated international organization promoting and supporting museums and museum work. ICME is one of the 30 International Committees active within ICOM. As the name suggests, its focus are museums of ethnography a conception that includes museums whose ethnographic collections and work are very local (such as community-specific museums), national and regional (such as the ENM) and those whose concerns are global in scope (such as the Mathers Museum of World Cultures). The meeting in Tartu at the ENM was the 51st ICME meeting and it was organized under the theme “Re-imaging the Museum in the Global Contemporary.” (Find information on the conference, including specific presentations here and here).

The ICME conference was presided over gracefully by ICME President Viv Golding (University of Leicester) and the hard working local organizational team was led by Agnes Aljas (Research Secretary at the ENM). Agnes in particular went to great lengths to facilitate my participation in the conference and I thank her for her kind efforts.

There were many excellent presentations throughout the conference and a range of meaningful special activities, Each day began with a keynote, all of which were rich and inspiring. The keynote speakers were Andrea Witcomb (Professor, Deakin University, Australia), Pille Runnel (Research Director, Estonian National Museum), Philipp Schorch (State Ethnographic Collection of Saxony, Germany) and Wayne Modest (Research Center for Material Culture, Netherlands).

ICME Group Photograph (ICME 2018)

Participants in the 2018 ICME meeting. From http://network.icom.museum/icme/, accessed November 1, 2018.

One contrast that I would highlight concerns the way that many of core conference presenters–as one might expect in Estonia as a Northern European host country–work in contemporary contexts shaped by volkskunde– or folklife-centered disciplinary histories (European ethnology, etc.). Their ethnographic concerns remained issues of commonality and difference inside (usually small) nation states. Nationalism is their main specter. With the exception of Pille Runnel from the ENM, whose valuable keynote took us behind the scenes at the host museum, the primary concerns of the other keynote speakers were more inflected towards volkerkunde (social anthropology, etc.) disciplinary histories or contexts. Whether overseas colonial projects or the dynamics of settler colonialism (in Australia), colonialism was the specter that haunted their remarks, even when focused on the problems of contemporary national cultures. This distinction was never complete and it is less so in places like modern Europe, but it remains present but not always acknowledged in our discussions. Discussions of projects with source communities, for instance, mean very different things in Berlin or Tartu. One could often feel audience members straining to connect the compelling suggestions made by keynote speakers to their own very different working contexts. I am always hyper sensitive to these dynamics working as a folklorist, ethnologist, and cultural anthropologist in a settler society that has vexing colonial (overseas and internal) circumstances as well as a difficult history of nation building in multicultural-but-unequal circumstances. This is a hard problem to solve because working knowledge of different disciplinary traditions and circumstances are so unevenly spread and widely-read and discussed work in English language museum anthropology has often overwhelmingly favored work in colonial situations over work arising from provincial and national ones.

These remarks are not in any way a criticism. A problem that I have long felt as a museum folklorist who is also a museum anthropologist (and as a teacher of folklore studies and of anthropology) were made still clearer for me in the ICME context. I hope that I can find new ways to help bridge the gap that I am evoking. International meetings where different perspectives and different national and global circumstances converge certainly help. I know that I am not alone in having learned much at the ICME meetings. I would not normally have been able to travel to an international meeting of this sort, thus my visit to Tartu was an extra-ordinary opportunity.

One last ENM note. The ENM stewards another museum site that I visited. As noted in my first post, I visited the Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life near Viljandi. My visit was excellent thanks to the work of my guides Kristi Jõeste and Ave Matsin of the Department of Estonian Native Craft and the kindness of our hostess And Raud. A textile artist, arts professor, and student of Estonian craft, costume and textiles, Ms. Raud founded the museum around her extensive collection. While it is now a branch of the ENM, the Ms. Raud remains the Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life’s greatest guide and interpreter. I thank her and Ave and Kristi for my visit.

My museum engagements in Estonia were inspirational and they will inform my teaching, research, and curatorial work for many years. I am fortunate to have had these opportunities and I thank all those who made them possible, including the Fulbright Specialist Program, the University of Tartu, and the Estonian National Museum.

The University of Tartu, Appreciated

#fulbrightspecialist #fulbright #exchangeourworld

I recently spent an extended time in Tartu, Estonia. I had the wonderful opportunity to be a Fulbright Specialist visiting the Departments of: (1) Estonian and Comparative Folklore, (2) Ethnology, and (3) Estonian Native Craft at the University of Tartu. My visit also provided rich opportunities to learn about the work of the Estonian National Museum, with which these departments collaborate closely. Visiting Estonia was a transformational experience for me and I am very grateful for my generous hosts in Estonia and for the continued work of the [U.S. Department of State’s] Fulbright Program. Here I reflect briefly on the work of my fields at the University of Tartu. In a later post, I will evoke the courses that I taught and the students I met while in Tartu. In a final post, I will touch on the Estonian National Museum and the rich International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography (ICME) conference that it recently hosted.

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On the left, with the mural on its end, is Ülikooli 16 in Tartu on the University of Tartu campus. It is today home to the Institute for Cultural Research, which includes the Departments of Ethnology and of Estonian and Comparative Folklore.

The twinned disciplines in which I work–folkloristics (folklore studies) and ethnology–have a deep and important history in Estonia. So too do the practice of, and the study of, the nation’s rich craft traditions. For my interests, it would really be difficult to think of a richer and more rewarding place to make an in-depth, scholarly visit. The University of Tartu is almost two centuries older than Indiana University where I work. It was founded in 1632 under the auspices of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Through Swedish, Russian, and Soviet rule as well as in independent Estonia, the University of Tartu has been a major world academic center. This is reflected in the fame and impact of its academic programs and in the scholars and students who continue to gather there from around the world. (For those interested in Indiana University connections, the university is strong not only in folklore studies and ethnology, but in the neighboring field of semiotics, another field of special interest to Indiana University scholars. Semiotician and IU Distinguished Professor Thomas Sebeok’s library can be found there (See: Thomas A. Sebeok Memorial Library. As noted here, Sebeok was a Fellow of the IU Folklore Institute and a Professor of Anthropology among his many IU roles.)

The Departments that hosted me have longstanding and strong undergraduate and graduate programs, but a new joint MA program was one catalyst for my visit. Having just welcomed its second cohort of students, the Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies program is an English-language masters degree program attracting strong students from around the world (including the United States). It is taught and managed in partnership between these units.

I taught two short-term courses while visiting campus (see later post) and met with colleagues and students both in Tartu and in the city of Viljandi, where the Department of Estonian Native Craft is based. It and other arts programs are located in the Viljandi Culture Academy. Viljandi–about an hour east of Tartu–is a strong hub for the arts in general and for Estonian vernacular and folk arts in particular. For example, near Viljandi is a great satellite museum of the Estonian National Museum that is focused on handicraft and rural life (Heimtali Museum of Domestic Life) and Viljandi is home to the major Viljandi Folk Music Festival.

Both in Viljandi and in Tartu, UT faculty were very generous and taught me much about their work and its contexts. As someone who teaches the history (and present status) of folklore studies, anthropology, and ethnology, it was extremely valuable to have a close encounter with the past and present of these fields in a national context that is inflected in both Northern European ways and in the Russian, Soviet, Post-Soviet ways. As throughout the region, issues of nationalism and national identity are a central theme, but colonialisms and their afterlives are also woven throughout the disciplinary histories. Estonia offers much to think about.

This is not just a historical matter, as changes and innovations in Estonia society also offer many lessons. For instance, life at the University of Tartu is now heavily impacted by programs and initiatives of the European Union and technological mediation is a constantly present dynamic in the university’s educational work. While I am quite accustomed now with online and distance education, I was struck by the extensive role that these techniques play not only word-heavy curriculums such as in ethnology and folklore studies, but in the university’s native craft curriculum. Most students in this later department are older students (older, that is, than recent high school graduates) and they are learning advanced textile, metalwork, and building techniques as well as heritage studies methods and theories through a combination of intense-but-brief in-person work on campus and online education activities.

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My course on “Getting the Most Out of Peer-Review” was generously supported by the European Union, thus this sign was posted during class sessions.

From colleagues in these departments, I also gained a deeper understanding of their impressive publishing work. Highlights include the Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics (which I have long admired) and Studia Vernacula and a great diversity of monographs and edited volumes. Publication work in my fields is very advanced in the UT departments. The well-researched and beautiful books being produced related to Estonian craft techniques and histories are a marvel–little work of this quality is found in the United States.

I could continue at near endless length, but this is enough for now. I close for the moment with warm appreciation for all of the staff, faculty, and students who worked hard to make my visit possible and who shared so much of their work and passion with me. Thanks also go to the Fulbright Specialist Program and to the European Union, the University of Tartu, and other funding agencies that supported my activities.

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In downtown Tartu.

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