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“The digital archive Is useless . . .”: Community archiving, dissemination and sovereignty

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Title: “The digital archive Is useless . . .”: Community archiving, dissemination and sovereignty
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: This paper and the topic of my recently completed dissertation wrestle with the utility of endangered language preservation practices that fail to consider the implications of language ideologies (Sliverstein 1979; Woolard and Schieffelin 1994; Schieffelin, et al. 1998) within a given language community. I find that the culturally based values present in a community can negatively impact the efficacy of language documentation, archiving and educational efforts if those values and the cultural resource management practices they influence, are not adequately conceptualized. Conversely, when ideology is aligned with preservation practices, greater success can be expected. I will situate my claims through application of a respected model of Indigenous resource management (Boxberger 1989) to provide historical context for understanding how current values and policy decisions impact language preservation in a community.

My presentation describes research on community archive initiatives in Alaska, Washington and California, and draws comparisons to existing international archives. In particular I share my experimental use of the Mukurtu Content Management System for language preservation and dissemination efforts. I find that in the communities I work with, maintenance of tribal capacity for self-determination and desire for educational dissemination of language resources are of paramount importance. If find these values can significantly impact decisions about language policy and are under-addressed by current endangered language archive initiatives. There is significant opportunity for greater collaboration between curriculum developers, language educators, archive managers, linguists and language community members to harness the power of archival collections into pedagogically (and andragogically) appropriate resources. The title of my paper comes from a statement made by the executive director of a small Native Alaskan community archive. He believes in the value of digital archiving (and so do I), but only if that practice has functional capacity to facilitate interactions and exchange between people. The digital archive may indeed be useless to some if it does not reinforce cultural values and affirm fundamental principles, such as the capacity for self-determination. As we work toward mobilizing the knowledge found in archives to support revitalization efforts, cultural factors that make archival collections relevant, accessible and participatory are increasingly important.

References Cited

Boxberger, Daniel
1989 To Fish in Common: The Ethnohistory of Lummi Indian Salmon Fishing. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Schieffelin, Bambi B., Kathryn Ann Woolard, and Paul V. Kroskrity, eds.
1998 Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. New York: Oxford
University Press.

Silverstein, Michael
1979 Language Structure and Linguistic Ideology. In The Elements: A
Parasession on Linguistic Units and Levels. R. Cline, W. Hanks, and C.
Hofbauer, eds. Pp. 193-247. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

Woolard, Kathryn A, and Bambi B Schieffelin
1994 Language Ideology. Annual Review of Anthropology 23(1):55-82.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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