RELS409 - Building Digital Exhibits with the Penn Museum and Native American Comm.

This class will focus on working with the oral tradition as a form of historical, anthropological, religious, and/or literary evidence. In the African American section, we will look closely at one historical incident that took place in the Sea Islands of Georgia. The white slave master wrote that recently arrived Igbo slaves walked into the water and drowned themselves, rather than be enslaved. Dozens of accounts by African Americans, spread over more than 200 years, report that the Igbo flew back to Africa. The class will study archival documents, African American narratives recorded in Drums and Shadows: Survival Studies among the Georgia Coastal Negroes (1940), and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, a literary account of what the story of the Flying Africans means to Black communities today. The class will research Igbo and Kongo traditions in Africa and the New World in seeking a richly detailed explanation for why so many of those interviewed insist that the story is true. This discussion will bring up theoretical issues of the ethics of interviewing, working with oral and transcribed materials, and the complex question of how to use oral history as evidence in the academy. The Native American section of the course will look at the history of how scholars have handled the oral tradition. As late as the mid-20th century, indigenous wisdom keepers were rendered as nameless "informants" on the white page. More recently, some very innovative ethnographic works-Julie Cruickshank's The Social Life of Stories, Linda Tuhiwai Smith's Decolonizing Methodologies, etc.-have been published that foreground the voices of indigenous wisdom keepers as equal or even more important than the scholarly voice. In this section, we will deal with issues of ethics, intellectual property rights, and how to write a scholarly work that emphasizes and fully respects traditional forms of knowledge. Students will be given access to recordings, transcripts, and published works based on these interviews in order to study the entire process of incorporating oral histories and traditions into your own scholarly work.
Section 401 - LEC
M 0200PM-0500PM