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Field School for Cultural Documentation


Voices: Refugees in Cache Valley

Eng/Hist 6750/4750 Advanced Folklore Workshop

11-29 May 2015, Logan, Utah

Folklorist NElda Ault with Sa La Man and neighbor.

Sponsored by: The American Folklife Center, Library of Congress; Fife Folklore Archives, Utah State University (USU) Library's Special Collections and Archives; USU Folklore Program, Department of English

Faculty: LOC: Dr. Margaret Kruesi, Dr. Guha Shankar; USU: Dr. Lisa Gabbert, Chit Moe, Randy Williams

Course Content: This is an intensive, three week course offered during the first summer session of 2015. This 3-credit course fulfills the fieldwork requirement (Eng/Hist 6750) for students enrolled in the folklore program. The course is limited to 12 students.

The Field School for Documentation offers beginning ethnographic fieldwork training for students of all levels. Focus is on documentation of local culture through oral interviews and photography, archival collection production, and public presentation. Instruction will cover research ethics, interviewing and sound recording techniques, ethnographic observation, and fieldnote writing. Training also will be provided on the archival organization and description of fieldwork materials gathered.

Course instruction will include lectures, hand-on activities, discussions, and supervised team-based fieldwork. Training is provided by professionals from the American Folklife Center and Utah State University.

Focus: This Field School will focus on gathering the stories/life experiences of new refugees in Cache Valley (Logan, Utah), particularly Burmese Muslim, Karen, and Eritrean refugees.

Course Overview and Requirements: The field school will begin informally on Sunday, 10 May with an evening get-together and potluck and begin formally on Monday, 11 May 2015 on the Utah State University, Logan campus.

The first week (11-15 May) will take place in the classroom. Students are required to attend all sessions and should plan on dedicating the entire week to the school. Students will learn basic ethnographic research skills, including observation, interviewing, and the taking of fieldnotes. Students will also learn technical skills, including the use of digital audio recording equipment, digital photography, logging, and the archiving metadata basics.

Fieldwork activities take place during the second week of the course (18-22 May). There will not be regular class sessions, but teams will meet with instructors to review progress, work on archival collections, and debrief. Students will be assigned to teams of three people. Each team will be assigned a particular refugee group with which to work and teams are expected to conduct background research on their assigned group. Students will rotate roles and responsibilities in their team, with each student conducting two interviews (including creating fieldnotes), photographing two sessions (including photo logs), and overseeing the audio for two sessions (including metadata creation). During this time, students will also be responsible for transcribing one interview and submitting one interview to the Fife Folklore Archives transcriptionist.

During the third week of class (25-29 May) research teams will finalize their ethnographic collections, including having both interviews vetted by interviewees, and prepare the interviews (fieldwork) for inclusion in the Fife Folklore Archives. Students will also conduct a final presentation (using Omeka) of their findings to the public the evening of 29 May at the Logan City public library.

As a final requirement, students are required to write a 10-15 page theoretical paper about their fieldwork experience, which is due at the end of the first summer session

For questions or information, please contact

Lisa Gabbert lisa.gabbert@usu.edu or Randy Williams randy.williams@usu.edu

Cache Valley Resettlment Infographic, courtesy Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection.

2015 Field School: Cache Valley Refugee