How Far Should the Library Promote Peaceful and Inclusive Societies for Sustainable Development?

Image from: www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/

By Steve Witt, Head of the International and Area Studies Library; Director of the Center for Global Studies

Last week’s Glocal Notes post featured the coming centenary of the armistice that ended the First World War by telling the story of the destruction and construction of the KU Leuven Library. The Leuven library speaks to the efforts of the library profession to collectively donate books towards efforts to replace what was so tragically lost during the war. Books and libraries played other roles in the war, and librarians served both on the battlefield and in prominent roles aimed at getting collections of books to soldiers.

This begs the question of what librarians were doing to promote the cause for peace before the “Great War”? The UN International Day of Peace on September 21st provides an opportunity to reflect on efforts of librarians and bibliographers to promote peace and work towards ideals that promoted what the UN Declaration of Human Rights now calls the “inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race” – an idea that to this day remains elusive to both implement socially and instill in the consciousness of people.

In the early 20th century, librarians and bibliographers worked cooperatively to develop international professional networks and practices to both further the profession of librarianship and contribute to human progress. In Belgium, Henri La Fontaine (winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Peace) and collaborator Paul Otlet strove to organize the world’s knowledge as a means to bring about peace. To this end, Otlet created the Universal Decimal Classification System (UDC) and worked to organize all knowledge globally. La Fontaine and Otlet were trying to change the tides towards peace through what they described as “facts” and “institutions.”  La Fontaine asserted that:

“we must oppose facts which are in contradiction with [peace], but especially create institutions which will be the denial of the pretended anarchy existing between the peoples” (1911, p. 1).

The “facts” that La Fontaine sought to share were to bring people “in contact and induce them to enter in relation the ones with the others, notwithstanding the difference of their languages, opinions and races. The facts are the improvements realized by the conscious and unconscious contributions of men of sciences and technics (sic) pertaining to the most various peoples” (p.1). For organization, they worked to create a system by which the “scattered” small groups of specialized organizations could:

“become conscious of the immanent force which is at their disposal. This force we call internationalism: it is the strongest cause of peace” (p. 2).

Image from: www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/

Librarians in the US were working towards similar ends, though often focused on using the public library as a vehicle for social change. Many urban public libraries were active in promoting peace studies and literature through their collections and engaging in what many contemporary librarians may consider Radical Cataloging. For example, in 1908, the Brooklyn Public Library published a 57-page list of books on peace and internationalism, and libraries in Denver, Boston, and Buffalo soon followed suit (Bowerman, 1915). By 1911, George F. Bowerman, Director of the Public Library of the District of Columbia, proposed the use of public, college, and school libraries to further international peace through the collection of books on peace and global affairs (Scott, 1911). The International Association of International Conciliation went so far as to insert cards promoting books and periodicals on the peace movement into the catalogs of American Libraries.

In 1912, the New York Library Club held a meeting on the topic of “The Relations of Libraries to the Peace Movement” (Quieted Germany, 1912, p. 9). Paul Brockett, of the Smithsonian Institution Library, “told of some ways in which librarians and teachers might co-operate to encourage the spread and accessibility of peace literature” (p. 9). The question of the profession’s role in advocating peace continued after the war began in Europe. At the 1915 American Library Association Annual Conference in Berkeley, California, George Bowerman gave a paper titled How Far Should the Library Aid the Peace Movement and Similar Propoganda? Bowerman asked his colleagues what they could do to bring about “peace that shall last” and whether there were “special considerations that may properly affect our attitude towards the peace movement” (Bowerman, 1915, p. 129).

Moving forward 100 years, we still confront many of these same challenges and questions that revolve around peace, justice, and role of our institutions in bringing these ideals into a reality for all humans. As we observe the UN’s International Day of Peace, perhaps it is a good time to reflect on the profession’s history of working towards a sustainable peace and consider ways in which we contribute to the UN’s goal for “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.”

References:

Bowerman, G. (1915). How far should the library aid the peace movement and similar propaganda? Bulletin of the American Library Association, 9(4), 129-133.

La Fontaine, H. (1911). Salus Mundi Suprima Lex. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. New York and Washington Offices. (n.d.). Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. New York and Washington Offices Records, 1910-1954., Volume 35(4078585). Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Archives, Columbia University Libraries.

Quieted Germany. (1912). New York Times, p. 9.

Scott, J. B. (1911, November 6). Letter from J. B. Scott to N. Butler. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. New York and Washington Offices. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. New York and Washington Offices Records, 1910-1954., Volume 78(4078585). Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Archives, Columbia University Libraries.

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr

Environmental Conflicts in Latin America & the Caribbean

By Claudia Lagos Lira

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Under fire: women, indigenous, and peasants
  3. Natural resources exploitation and colonialism
  4. Mining and more
  5. Further reading and resources
  6. Contact a Librarian

Introduction

Berta Cáceres (44) was a member of the Lenca indigenous group in Honduras. She was a mother, a daughter, a friend, and an environmental rights campaigner internationally awarded for her activism. As a co-founder and leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras, Copinh), she led the protest against the Agua Zarca Dam on the Gualcarque River, an hydroelectric project developed by the local company, Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA). Cáceres was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, in March 2016, while supposedly under state protection after receiving several death threats over her opposition to the project.

Intelligence squads in agreement with corporate power are suspected to be responsible for the crime: Several men have been arrested in connection with the murder, “including one serving and two retired military officers,” as court documents revealed, according to an investigation by The Guardian. Among the civilians charged with murder or attempted murder are Roberto David Castillo and Sergio Rodríguez, the executive president of DESA and the manager of environmental and social issues at DESA at the time Cáceres was killed.

Unfortunately, hers is not an isolated case: Nelson García, also a member of Copinh, was murdered two weeks after Cáceres was killed; a few years before, Tomás García, another Lenca indigenous leader and member of Copinh, was shot dead by the Honduran Army as he participated in a peaceful protest. The killings triggered international investors to drop or stop their funding to the Agua Zarca project, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been investigating human rights violations in the country, denouncing impunity, and recommending the government to take action.

Continue reading

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr

Celebrating Sub-Saharan Arabic Manuscripts

Introduction 

page of west-African manuscript

This is a page from Professor Stewart’s manuscript collection.

In April, the University Library celebrated the preservation of the Charles Stewart Mauritanian Arabic manuscripts, which is the most extensive collection of Sub-Sahar manuscripts in North America. Prof. Charles served for 35 years in the Department of History, and for half of that time held administrative posts as Director of African Studies, Associate Chair, then Chair of History, Executive Associate Dean in the College of LAS and Interim Associate Provost for International Studies, before his retirement in 2006.

According to Stewart, the collection has 10,000 manuscripts, and it covers topics such as jurisprudence, devotions, science, Quran, history, langaugestics, Sufism, politics, and economics.

The celebration of the collection also had an exhibit that was created by Atyeh (Ati) Ashtari and an online LibGuide created by Lauryn Lehman.

Laila Hussein Moustafa, Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern and North African Studies Librarian

The Exhibition

panels about the west-African Caliphate

Panels about the Caliphate are on display in the IAS Library through mid-May.

“Working on an exhibition to showcase Caliphate of Hamdallahi exposed me to many challenges. In order to create a successful exhibition, you need to come up with highly visually pleasing graphics to make the intended audience interested in the work. However, this particular topic did not have any easily accessible visual materials such as photos, images and manuscripts. Therefore, we had to spend hours digging up the relevant information. Moreover, we had to be very innovative to come up with ways of visualizing the gathered data in a way that is both interesting as a text and much more fascinating as a graphic. This is very well indicated in our poster presenting the challenges of studying the Sokoto Caliphate. We wanted to convey that the two most challenging part of this study was that the material was diffused all over the world and that the data was in many different languages. To visualize these amazing facts, we ended up building layers of graphics on top of a world map to depict such challenges.”

Atyeh Ashtari, Graduate Research Assistant for Urban and Regional Planning

The Online LibGuide

screenshot of library guide about west-african manuscripts

This library guide will be available online soon from the International and Area Studies Library.

This semester, we have been in the process of developing a library guide to aid researchers in locating West African Arabic and Arabic-script resources to use in their research. The initial focus was on finding as many open-access resources as were available, though the scope has expanded outwards to include any relevant resources that could be found. We were able to successfully locate a number of digitization projects that have made resources openly available, as well as an extensive list of physical archives, both domestically and internationally, that researchers may visit. Additionally, we are in the process of creating an interactive map, to further aid in the finding of resources. We look forward to adding new materials as further projects make them available.”

Lauryn Lehman, master’s candidate for African Studies and Library and Information Sciences

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr

‘Black Panther’: A Realistic Africa within a Fictitious Wakanda

Black Panther theatrical poster

Post by Ashley Adams

For months now, people have been raving about Marvel’s Black Panther movie. It has received some criticism, but also overwhelming support and love from people all over the world.

Marvel produces superhero movies that are fascinating to watch, and sometimes have brief historical and realistic components, but this is the first time when fiction and reality combine in this specific way. Not only is this movie a first of its kind, with an almost entirely black cast, but it sets out to provide its viewers with a connection. For the first time, there is a black superhero who takes center stage. And although this story is based in fantasy, the filmmakers took the opportunity to fuse fantasy with real African concepts, cultures, and histories.

Wakanda is a fictitious Central East African nation that has not yet been discovered, let alone exploited by outside colonizers. It directly counters many common perceptions of Africa as being a dark, poor continent. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author, comes to mind when considering this perception and “the danger of a single story”. In reality, however, Africa is so much more. It is a continent rich in so many ways, and equally rich in diversity. This movie provides some insight into the diversity that is present throughout the continent, while it can also be seen as promoting a sense of identity, a sense of pan-Africanism.

A map of regions in Africa

One of the most visually exciting components of this movie is the fashion. Ruth E. Carter was the costume designer for the film, and she created a combination of traditional African attire with hi-tech Afropunk influences. Carter had the goal of creating attire for a fictional African nation that was completely original, but that also represented and honored both African history and African-American history. She took several trips to Africa and drew inspiration from those visits. Some of her specific inspiration came from the Dogon people of West Africa, the Turkana people in East Africa, the Hemba people in Congo, the Suri tribe in Ethiopia, the Tuareg people in Western and Northern Africa, along with several others, totaling over 10 different tribes and groups of people from throughout the continent (Giles, 2018). She combined these inspirations with an Afro-futuristic edge to create the original attire for the film. Check out a brief red carpet interview with Carter here when she talks about some of her favorite inspirations:

Throughout the film, characters are sometimes seen speaking to each other in another language. What is even more interesting, however, is the fact that this is a real African language. The filmmakers decided to incorporate isiXhosa, a South African language with over eight million native speakers, into the story line (Eligon, 2018). This language was not chosen at random, but was suggested by one of the actors in the film. John Kani, who plays T’Chaka, the father of T’Challa, in the film, is a native of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, and a native isiXhosa speaker. He suggested that the directors should incorporate some isiXhosa into the film’s dialogue to increase the African authenticity of the film. The filmmakers loved the idea, and the film’s director, Ryan Coogler, “wanted to make it a priority to use Xhosa as much as possible” throughout the film (Eligon, 2018). The usage of isiXhosa, however, was not random or sporadic throughout the film, but rather was strategically used during what would be considered natural or authentic situations. An example of this would be when two Wakandan characters wanted to discuss something privately but were in the presence of an outsider. The language itself is very difficult to learn, and because none of the cast were native speakers of isiXhosa, the filmmakers hired several dialect coaches, including Mr. Kani and his son. If you’re interested in hearing a bit about the pronunciation of isiXhosa, check out this video:

This film has definitely paved the way for new narratives about Africa. It has inspired viewers to consider more than a single story, and has increased pride for African culture, language, and history.

For more information on African Studies resources, visit the International and Area Studies Library’s African Studies Collections & Services page, or contact:

Atoma Batoma, PhD
African Studies Bibliographer
323 Library
batoma@illinois.edu

Search for African language resources: https://www.library.illinois.edu/ias/languageresources/

News Sources:

Eligon, John. (2018, February 16). Wakanda Is a Fake Country, but the African Language in ‘Black Panther’ Is Real. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/us/wakanda-black-panther.html.

Giles, Chris. (2018, February 19). A journey into Wakanda: How we made Black Panther. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/16/africa/black-panther-behind-the-scenes-marvel/index.html.

Ashley M Adams
MS in Community Health Candidate, MA in African Studies Candidate
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Tumblr