7.4 Data Gathering and Archiving
Even if you are not actively planning to elicit stories of conflict and trauma, it is critical to be prepared for such topics if they come up. It is not uncommon for community members to share stories during data gathering sessions, especially if there is a strong relationship between you and your consultants.
Whether you are an outsider coming into the community to perform field work or you are a member of the community seeking to document the language and cultural contexts, it is recommended that you perform some general background research on the geopolitics of the region. Even if you are passively familiar with it, a proper review will ensure you have a more holistic perspective and prepare you for geopolitical topics during sessions.
As mentioned previously, you may unintentionally gather stories about instability, conflict, and trauma. For example, Emiliana Cruz describes a data gathering process she calls "Share while Walking", during which she and a consultant will take a walk together and talk about the landscape and terms for different plants, animals, and places. However, on these walks her consultants will often share their feelings and thoughts about local issues, including conflicts or disputes and other problems that impact their lives (Cruz, 2019). You may also decide it is important to gather these stories and wish to elicit them for the purposes of sharing indigenous experiences. This is also acceptable, if done in a proper and ethical manner. But whether you gather this information unintentionally or you explicitly elicit it, you need to be extremely careful about how you proceed.
This section will give you a brief summary of things you need to consider, but we are focusing more on the importance of being prepared rather than steps to fully train yourself for the situation. We strongly recommend that you seek more in-depth training and documentation on how to prepare for such data collection before setting out to gather data.
Traditionally much data gathering surrounding trauma has been done using closed-ended surveys. This keeps data consistent and can provide boundaries for the participants. However, open-ended conversations tend to get richer data and can help with recovery. This is also the format that will come about if conversations come up naturally and you are not explicitly eliciting the information. Some scholars believe this open-ended conversation and “truth-telling” can be cathartic and a healing process (Chelliah, Meernik, & King, 2020). The next section will discuss issues of privacy when archiving data collected during such sessions.
After your data is gathered, you need to be cautious of how you archive it. As discussed on the previous page, certain information could put your consultants at risk of retribution or being ostracized by the community. Sometimes this risk could even be life-threatening.
First and foremost, you should confirm with your consultant that they give permission for you to store and release their stories. Some consultants may wish access to be highly restricted. Others may wish for you to keep the data private until a set amount of time has passed, or even wait to release it until after their deaths. Make sure your consultant also understands the larger context in which their stories will be shared -- mixed in with other archived materials.
If and when you receive permission to archive and share the data, consider how you can maintain the anonymity of your consultant if necessary. If it is a video, could you blur the face, for example? Perhaps keep certain metadata such as the consultant’s name and location private. There are options to keep certain information private while still sharing the important content of the recording.
Documenting Kashmir's Conflict History
The below presentation was presented by Dr. Sadaf Munshi from the UNT Department of Linguitdics and Ajay Raina at the Language Endangerment and Political Instability Conference and Workshops. The paper discusses a collaborative project to document personl experiences and narratives related to the armed conflict of Kashmir (1989-90) in an attempt to help preserve factual integrity.
Chelliah, Meernik, & King. 2020. Language endangerment and political instability: sharing the methods and ethics of endangered language research. Pending publication.
Cruz, Emiliana. 2019. Slow Violence and Language Endangerment. Presentation at Voices in Dangerous Times - Conversations with experts about the loss of language diversity & violence. Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Smithsonian, Washington D.C. Available at https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1475498/. Accessed on 2020-05-23.
Munshi, Sadaf & Raina, Ajay. Documenting Kashmir's Conflict History: Kashmir Oral History project, presentation, October 4, 2018; (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1706564/m1/1/: accessed October 20, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Information.