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Of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity: The Scholarship, Poetry, Photographs, and Films of Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict, and Margaret Mead

Applicant Schweighauser Philipp
Number 149383
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Englisches Seminar Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline German and English languages and literature
Start/End 01.08.2014 - 30.11.2017
Approved amount 458'141.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
German and English languages and literature
Ethnology

Keywords (24)

literary anthropology; anthropology of the senses; Mead, Margaret; medial alterity; visuality; aisthesis; visual anthropology; primitivism; cultural relativism; aesthetics; 20th c. literary history; Benedict, Ruth Fulton; sound; literariness; poetic alterity; modernism; intermediality; Sapir, Edward; cultural anthropology; visual culture studies; cultural alterity; alterity; 20th c. history of anthropology; literary studies

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
"Of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity: The Scholarship, Poetry, Photographs, and Films of Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict, and Margaret Mead": ein 3-jähriges Forschungsprojekt zu den Gedichten, Fotografien und Filmen drei der wichtigsten Anthropolog/innen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Projektleitung: Prof. Dr. Philipp Schweighauser (Basel), Prof. Dr. Walter Leimgruber (Basel), Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl (Bern). Laufzeit: 08/2014-07/2017.
Lay summary

Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict und Margaret Mead sind drei der einflussreichsten Anthropolog/innen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Sie definierten den Kulturbegriff neu und begründeten den Kulturrelativismus in der Nachfolge ihres akademischen Lehrers Franz Boas. Von den dreien wurde insbesondere Mead für ihre Experimente mit nicht-traditionellen Medien der ethnographischen Forschung bekannt; zusammen mit ihrem Ehemann Gregory Bateson führte sie die Fotografie und den Film in ihre Disziplin ein und gilt heute als Gründungsmutter der Visuellen Anthropologie. Was weniger bekannt ist: Sapir, Benedict und Mead schrieben zusammen über 500 Gedichte, wovon sich viele mit ihren ethnographischen Untersuchungsgegenständen befassen. Nicht wenige dieser Gedichte wurden in wichtigen Literaturzeitschriften wie The Dial und Poetry veröffentlicht. Trotzdem existiert bislang keine umfassende Untersuchung dieses lyrischen Werks.

"Of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity: The Scholarship, Poetry, Photographs, and Films of Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict, and Margaret Mead" ist ein dreijähriges Forschungsprojekt, welches der Frage nachgeht, welchen Unterschied es macht, wenn man andere Kulturen nicht mit konventioneller ethnographischer Prosa beschreibt, sondern mit Hilfe anderer Textsorten und Medien: Gedichten, Filmen und Fotografien. Vom Schweizerischen Nationalfonds finanziert und geleitet von Prof. Dr. Philipp Schweighauser und Prof. Dr. Walter Leimgruber von der Univ. Basel und Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl von der Univ. Bern bringt das Projekt LiteraturwissenschaftlerInnen und KulturanthropologInnen mit den folgenden Zielen zusammen: Vorlage der ersten umfassenden Untersuchung des lyrischen Werks Sapirs, Benedicts und Meads; substantielle Beiträge zur US-amerikanischen Literaturgeschichtsschreibung wie auch zur Geschichte der Anthropologie; Neubestimmung von Meads Rolle bei der Entstehung der Visuellen Anthropologie. Die Projektsumme beläuft sich auf CHF 458'141, welche sich auf zwei Teilprojekte verteilen. Laufzeit: 08/2014-07/2017.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 20.01.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Playing Seriously with Genres: Sapir's 'Nootka' Texts and Mead's Balinese Anthropology
Schweighauser Philipp (2017), Playing Seriously with Genres: Sapir's 'Nootka' Texts and Mead's Balinese Anthropology, in RANAM: Recherches anglaises et nord-américaines, 50, 107-121.
Grenzgänger_innen. Von der kulturellen Maskerade bis zum „Going native“
Chakkalakal Silvy (2015), Grenzgänger_innen. Von der kulturellen Maskerade bis zum „Going native“, in Andris Silke, Chakkalakal Silvy, Picard Jacques (ed.), Panama Verlag, Berlin, 43-68.
Introduction
Rippl Gabriele (2015), Introduction, in Rippl Gabriele (ed.), De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston, 1-31.
Folk Communities in Translation: Salvage Primitivism and Edward Sapir’s French-Canadian Folk Songs
Reichel A. Elisabeth, Schweighauser Philipp, Folk Communities in Translation: Salvage Primitivism and Edward Sapir’s French-Canadian Folk Songs, in Etter Lukas, Straub Julia (ed.), Gunter Narr, Tübingen, 61-83.
Of Syncretisms, Foils, and Cautionary Examples: Ruth Fulton Benedict’s Ethnographic and Poetic Styles
Schweighauser Philipp, Of Syncretisms, Foils, and Cautionary Examples: Ruth Fulton Benedict’s Ethnographic and Poetic Styles, in Sonnenberg Bjoern, Tarapata Olga, Dücker Jasmin, Vaja Elena, Ingwersen Moritz (ed.), Peter Lang, New York.
Text als Paradigma der Kulturwissenschaft
Schweighauser Philipp, Text als Paradigma der Kulturwissenschaft, in Simon Ralf (ed.), De Gruyter, Tübingen.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Dr. Richard C. Rath, University of Hawaii United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Alexander Honold, Universität Basel Switzerland (Europe)
- Publication
Prof. Dr. Donald Pease, Dartmouth College United States of America (North America)
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Prof. Dr. Regina Bendix, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Manuscript Division and Moving Image Research Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. United States of America (North America)
- Research Infrastructure
Sensory Studies Research Directory, Center for Sensory Studies, Concordia University Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Archives and Special Collections Library at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. United States of America (North America)
- Research Infrastructure
Nicole Wolf, Goldsmiths College, University of London Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Sieglinde Lemke, Universität Freiburg Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Dr. David Howes, Concordia University Montreal Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Brian Hochman, Georgetown University United States of America (North America)
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Johann Jacobs Museum Zürich Switzerland (Europe)
- Research Infrastructure
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Suitland United States of America (North America)
- Research Infrastructure
Prof. Dr. Nicola Gess, Universität Basel Switzerland (Europe)
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Guest Lecture at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) Individual talk The Poetic and Medial Practices of Boasian Anthropology 16.11.2017 Munich, Germany Schweighauser Philipp;
Privatheiten und Öffentlichkeiten (Vorlesungszyklus) Individual talk Margaret Meads Gedichte zwischen Privatheit und Öffentlichkeit: Ein Forschungsbericht 13.06.2017 Freiburg, Germany Schweighauser Philipp;
Annual Meeting of the German Association of American Studies Talk given at a conference Making It New, Differently: Margaret Mead's Poetry 08.06.2017 Hannover, Germany Schweighauser Philipp;
Forschungsfeld: Feldforschung. Erkundungen zwischen Literaturwissenschaft und Ethnologie Talk given at a conference From Patterns of Culture to "In Parables": Cultural Representation in the Ethnography and Poetry of Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) 07.03.2017 Oldenburg, Germany Reichel A. Elisabeth;
RANAM 50: Discourse, Boundaries and Genres in English Studies: An Assessment Talk given at a conference Playing Seriously with Genres: Sapir's 'Nootka' Texts and Mead's Balinese Anthropology 04.03.2017 Strasbourg, France Schweighauser Philipp;
International, Interdisciplinary Conference Ear Pieces: Listening, Diagnosing, Writing Talk given at a conference On Alternating Sounds: From Franz Boas’s Ethnographic Ear to the Poetry of Edward Sapir 16.12.2016 Cambridge, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Anthropology, Literature, the Senses: Questions of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity Talk given at a conference Sounding Primitives, Writing Anthropologists: The Poetry and Scholarship of Edward Sapir, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict 25.11.2016 Basel, Switzerland Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Anthropology, Literature, the Senses: Questions of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity Talk given at a conference Anthropology of the Senses. Ethhnography as an Aesthetic and Collaborative Practice in the Works of Margaret Mead 25.11.2016 Basel, Switzerland Chakkalakal Silvy;
Biennial conference of the Swiss Association for North American Studies; American Communities: Between the Popular and the Political Talk given at a conference Folk Communities in Translation: Edward Sapir’s Renditions of French-Canadian Folk Songs in Poetry 04.11.2016 Bern, Switzerland Schweighauser Philipp; Reichel A. Elisabeth;
21st World Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association Talk given at a conference An Anthropologist's Paragonal Project: Cultural and Artistic Alterity in the Poetic and Critical Writing of Edward Sapir 21.07.2016 Wien, Austria Reichel A. Elisabeth;
EUCOR English Trinational PhD Symposium Talk given at a conference Writing Literature, Filming Culture: The Poetry and Multimedial Ethnographic Work of Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict, and Margaret Mead 22.04.2016 Strasbourg, France Schweighauser Philipp;
European Association for American Studies Conference 2016 Talk given at a conference Toward Unnerving the Us: Apollonian and Dionysian Others in the Ethnography and Poetry of Ruth Benedict 22.04.2016 Constanza, Romania Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Third Bremen Conference on Language and Literature in Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts Talk given at a conference 'For you have given me speech!'—Gifted Speakers, Inarticulate Others, and Media Epistemologies in the Writing of Margaret Mead 15.03.2016 Bremen, Germany Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Hamburger Gesellschaft für Volkskunde und Institut für Volkskunde/Kulturanthropologie Individual talk Netzwerk Mead. Ethnographie als ästhetische und kooperative Praxis 12.01.2016 Hamburg, Germany Chakkalakal Silvy;
Soundscapes and Sonic Cultures in America. Conference of the Austrian Association for American Studies Talk given at a conference Sonic Others in Early Soundscape Studies and the Poetry of Edward Sapir: A Salvage Operation 06.11.2015 Graz, Austria Reichel A. Elisabeth;
40. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde Talk given at a conference The sensitive ethnologist - Modernismus und die Kunst des Einfühlens 23.07.2015 Zürich, Switzerland Chakkalakal Silvy;
The 10th MESEA Conference, Cultural Palimpsests: Ethnic Watermarks, Surfacing Histories Talk given at a conference On the Poetry of an Early Cultural Anthropologist: Ruth Benedict’s Palimpsestuous Writing 22.06.2015 Warschau, Poland Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Framing, Compiling, Sampling - Sensor Practices in Cultural Analysis Talk given at a conference 'Grasping the Cultural Surplus' – Cultural Anthropology and the artistic field in the 1920s and 1930s 24.04.2015 Basel, Switzerland Chakkalakal Silvy;
EUCOR English Trinational PhD Conference Talk given at a conference Mediated Immediacy: Cultural and Medial Alterity in the Poetry of Margaret Mead 10.04.2015 Elsass, France Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Research Colloquium Individual talk Of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity: The Scholarship, Poetry, Photographs, and Films of Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict, and Margaret Mead 10.03.2015 Basel, Switzerland Schweighauser Philipp; Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Biennial conference of the Swiss Association for North American Studies; Literature, Ethics, Morality: American Studies Perspectives Talk given at a conference Against the Odds: Grasping Others through the Poetry of Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Edward Sapir 22.11.2014 Basel, Switzerland Reichel A. Elisabeth;
Looking Forward, 2014 Talk given at a conference Of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity: The Scholarship, Poetry, Photographs, and Films of Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict, and Margaret Mead 14.11.2014 Berlin, Germany Schweighauser Philipp;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Anthropologists at Work: Kunst und Kultur in den USA der 1920er bis 50er Jahre Talk 10.11.2016 Zürich, Johann Jacobs Museum, Switzerland Chakkalakal Silvy;
Grenzgängerinnen zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft Talk 10.11.2015 Zurich, Johann Jacobs Museum, Switzerland Chakkalakal Silvy;
Beratungstätigkeit Johann Jacobs Museum (JJM): Ausstellung „Maya Deren Haitian Rushes“ – Roger M. Buergel und Sophia Prinz Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 01.10.2015 Zurich, Johann Jacobs Museum, Switzerland Chakkalakal Silvy;
Wieso schreiben AnthropologInnen Gedichte? Talk 27.05.2015 Basel, SeniorenUni, Volkshochschule beider Basel, Switzerland Schweighauser Philipp;
Beratungstätigkeit Johann Jacobs Museum (JJM): six weeks archival work for the JJM at the Motion Picture Division and the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 01.11.2014 Zürich, Johann Jacobs Museum, United States of America Chakkalakal Silvy;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Die Kunst der Ethnografie UniNova. Das Wissenschaftsmagazin der Universität Basel (Nr. 127 / Mai 2016, S. 60–62) German-speaking Switzerland 2016
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity (project website) International German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Western Switzerland 2014

Awards

Title Year
A. Elisabeth Reichel arbeitet als Gastwissenschaftlerin am Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., auf Einladung von Donald E. Pease. 2017
A. Elisabeth Reichel arbeitet an der Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., auf Empfehlung von Brian Hochman. 2017
Honorable Mention für den Vortrag “On the Poetry of a Boasian Cultural Anthropologist: Ruth Benedict’s Palimpsestuous Writing”, The Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas (MESEA) 2016
Swiss Association for North-American Studies (SANAS) Research Award 2016

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
172224 Sounding Primitives, Writing Anthropologists: The Poetry and Scholarship of Edward Sapir, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict 01.08.2017 Doc.Mobility

Abstract

"Of Cultural, Poetic, and Medial Alterity: The Scholarship, Poetry, Photographs, and Films of Edward Sapir, Ruth Fulton Benedict, and Margaret Mead" is a 3-year research project that brings together four literary scholars and two cultural anthropologists to explore convergences between three types of alterity: cultural alterity (the otherness of the cultures anthropologists study), poetic alterity (the use of poetry in anthropological investigation), and medial alterity (the use of then non-conventional media such as photographs and films in anthropological investigation) in the work of three preeminent cultural anthropologists: Sapir, Benedict, and Mead, who conceptualized 'culture' and 'cultural relativism,' two of the most influential concepts in the 20th c. social sciences. Out of the three, it is Mead who has become famous for experimenting with media other than the standard ethnographic text already in the 1930s, particularly photography and film. What is less known is that, together, our three anthropologists wrote over 500 poems, dedicated poems to one another, and published a good number of them in renowned literary magazines such as The Dial and Poetry. This prolific, collaborative poetic output, much of which engages with the objects of the writers' anthropological investigations, makes them a unique group in the history of 20th-century Cultural Anthropology: they were the only anthropologists of the era that left a sizeable (yet sorely understudied) body of poetry. Along with their ethnographic writings and relevant selections from Mead's ethnographic films and photographs, these texts and (audio)visual media form the corpus of our research project. To date, neither our anthropologists' poems nor Mead's photographs and films have been the subjects of a sustained study: previous literary scholarship has analyzed but a fraction of the poems, largely from biographical perspectives that are in danger of reducing the poems to their authors' personal lives, and most of Mead's photographs and films still linger unexamined in the Library of Congress (LoC). The current project proposes to close this gap by asking what difference it makes whether one evokes the cultural Other in standard expository ethnographic prose, in poetic language, or in (what used to be) non-conventional media of ethnographic representation such as celluloid and photographic prints. In tackling this question, we present the first sustained study of Sapir's, Benedict's, and Mead's poetic oeuvres; make an important, canon-revising intervention in the history of US modernism as well as the 20th -century history of anthropology; and propose a reassessment of Mead's role in the development of visual anthropology that takes into account the aesthetic/aisthetic nature of her work.
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