World Oral Literature Project Workshop

15 December 2009 - 16 December 2009


REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED. Please contact Michelle Maciejewska if you are interested in attending the event.


Convenor:    Mark Turin (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge) 

Programme and Registration
Please use the links at the right hand side of the page to see the programme and register online. The fee (which includes lunch on both days) is £30, with a concessionary rate of £15 for students or unwaged. The deadline for registration is Thursday 10 December.

This two-day workshop, organised by the World Oral Literature Project at the University of Cambridge, is designed to bring 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 will broadly focus on this region. Specific sessions on the Himalayas (India and Nepal), High Asia (China, Mongolia and Tibet) and the Pacific are planned.

The workshop will provide a collaborative environment for scholars to present, discuss and be exposed to new techniques and fieldwork methodologies. Topics include 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 or community cultural centres as sites of knowledge transfer, teaching and research.

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

Confirmed participants include:
Professor Peter Austin (SOAS)
Katey Blumenthal (University of Virginia)
Dr Lissant Bolton (British Museum)
Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey (Publisher and Archivest)
Professor Ruth Finnegan (Open University)
Professor Martin Gaenszle (University of Vienna)
Dr Stephen Hugh-Jones (King's College, University of Cambridge)
Dr Christopher Kaplonski (MIASU, University of Cambridge)
Professor Alan Macfarlane (King's College, University of Cambridge)
David Nathan (Director, Endangered Languages Archive, SOAS)
Professor Michael Oppitz (University of Zürich)
Dr Carole Pegg (University of Cambridge)
Dr Judith Pettigrew (University of Limerick)
Gerald Roche (Griffin University/Qinghai Normal University)
Dr Anne de Sales (CNRS, Paris)
Dr Sara Shneiderman (St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge)
Elin Stangeland (DSpace, University of Cambridge)
Alban von Stockhausen (University of Zürich)
Professor William Sutherland (Zoology, University of Cambridge)
Yarjung Kromchai Tamu (Chief Advisor, Tamu Pye Lhu Sangh)
Professor Nicholas Thomas (Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

This workshop has been made possible by generous support from:

The Onaway Trust
The Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research


Please note that  part of the proceedings may be filmed by the University Office of External Affairs and Communications for a series of  short video podcasts on research projects.



Please address  administrative enquiries to


Location : CRASSH Date : 15-16 December

Tuesday 15 December





Welcome and Introduction


From Practice to Text
Chair: Mark Turin

Ritual Drumming and Chanting of the Tamu Shamans of Nepal
Yarjung Kromchai Tamu (Chief Advisor, Tamu Pye Lhu Sangh)

The Parched Grain Chant: Parallel Verse and Simultaneous Action in Magar Rituals
Michael Oppitz (University of Zürich)

Tamu Shamans' Books: The Challenges of Textualising the Pye-ta Lhu-ta
Judith Pettigrew (University of Limerick)


Tea/Coffee Break


Keynote Address
Introduction: Alan Macfarlane 

The Rewards and Issues of Studying Oral Literature: Some Personal Reflections
Ruth Finnegan (Open University) 




Archives and Dissemination
Chair: Charles Chadwyck-Healey 

DSpace@Cambridge - Ensuring Access to Cultural Heritage Resources
Elin Stangeland (University of Cambridge) 

A New Look at Archiving for Sensitive Community Based Materials: A "web 2.0" Approach to Distribution and Updates
David Nathan (Endangered Languages Archive, SOAS)  


Tea/Coffee Break 


Community Cooperation and Collaboration
Chair: Peter Austin 

Collecting Change in Vanuatu: Oral Traditions and Cultural Change
Lissant Bolton (British Museum) 

Participatory Cultural Preservation on the Sino-Tibetan Fringe
Gerald Roche (Griffith University/Qinghai Normal University) 


Summation and General Discussion
Chair: Stephen Hugh-Jones


Reception at Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Open to all)
Host: Nicholas Thomas 


Wednesday 16 December



Orality and Textuality: Himalayan Examples
Chair: Michael Oppitz 

Documenting Ceremonial Dialogues in East Nepal: An In Vitro Performance and the Problem of  Textualisation
Martin Gaenszle (University of  Vienna)

'Producing' Thangmi Ritual Texts: Practice, Performance and Collaborative Documentation
Sara Shneiderman (University of Cambridge) 


Tea/Coffee Break


Audiovisual Engagements: Songs and Narratives
Chair: Martin Gaenszle 

Collecting Shamanic Songs in Nepal
Anne de Sales (CNRS)

Reciting Landscape: Documenting Ritual Journeys and Landscape among the Dumi Rai of Eastern Nepal
Alban von Stockhausen (University of Zürich)

Who's Singing Now?: Exploring the Effects of Reframing Lo Monthang's Musical Dialogue
Katey Blumenthal (University of Virginia)




Classifications of Language Endangerment
Chair: Bert Vaux

Languages and Species: Threats and Global Patterns
William Sutherland (University of Cambridge) 

Reading the Lontars: Endangered Literary Practices of Lombok, Eastern Indonesia
Peter Austin (SOAS)


Tea/Coffee Break


Re-presenting the Orality of Inner Asia
Chair: Piers Vitebsky 

Data, Basically: Computers, Documents and the Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia
Christopher Kaplonski (University of Cambridge)

Re-sounding the Spirits of Altai-Sayan Oral Epic Performance
Carole Pegg (University of Cambridge)


Chair: Mark Turin 


Reception at CRASSH (Open to all) 


Dinner at St Catharine's College