Preview of Graduate Assistant Digital Projects: Indonesia and Timor-Leste

This cart of in the IAS library holds books that GAs Laura and Mariah are using to complete research for their digital projects.

This year’s IAS graduate assistants, Laura Rocco and Mariah Schaefer, are both developing online research tools for area studies topics. These projects will be completed over the next several months and presented at the library in February. Laura and Mariah describe their projects below:

Laura – Balai Pustaka: a snapshot of publishing in Indonesia

Balai Pustaka (BP) is a state-run publisher in Indonesia that provides a unique understanding of print publishing, censorship, language development, and Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. Founded as the Commissie voor de Inlandsche School en Volkslectuur (the Commission for People’s Education and Reading) in 1908 and renamed Balai Pustaka in 1917, BP changed hands in WWII when the Japanese occupied Indonesia, and again in 1949 when Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch. Balai Pustaka publications range from the earliest Indonesian novels in the 1920s to the later textbook and educational materials of the post-colonial period.

An online research portal for materials related to Balai Pustaka will be published through the International and Area Studies Library using the Omeka platform. This tool will connect reference sources about BP, sources about Indonesian publishing, and historical context about the Dutch colonial and post-colonial periods with information about Balai Pustaka holdings at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The University Library holds more than 150 titles from this publisher from the post-colonial period (1951-), which can be of great value to researchers studying the political, social, and cultural histories of Indonesia.

Mariah – Research Guide to Timor-Leste (East Timor)

Timor-Leste is one of the youngest countries in the world, having officially gained independence in 2002. It was a Portuguese colony from the 1510s until Portugal withdrew in 1975. Indonesia invaded the country later that same year and stayed in power until 1999, when the majority of East Timorese voted for independence and the United Nations stepped in to help with the transition. Timor-Leste is home to 1.3 million people, who speak many local languages (Portuguese and Tetum are the official languages, and Indonesian and English are the working languages). Because the country is young, Timor-Leste is still building its national library and archives.

A “Research Guide to Timor-Leste (East Timor)” is in production and will join the other library guides by the International and Area Studies Library early in the spring semester. Not a lot of libraries have guides about Timor-Leste, so this tool aims to be really useful for researchers. The research guide will provide a variety of resources related to the country’s history, languages, cultural heritage, and government.

The time, date, and location of these presentations will be listed on the IAS calendar in early Spring, at which time these sites will also be published. Any questions can be directed to Laura Rocco or Mariah Schaefer.

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Happy Halloween! Celebrate with Horror Manga

On Wednesday, October 31st, Billy Tringali – a graduate student in the School of Information Sciences – will present a guest lecture as part of the IAS Library’s Halloween Spooktacular.

Read on for an interview with Tringali about his presentation on manga horror master Junji Ito:

comic panel

A Junji Ito panel

Can you describe what attendees can expect from your lecture?

The work of manga artist Junji Ito can most easily be defined as a hybrid between the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft and the body horror of Cronenberg’s The Fly. His work is terrifying, disgusting, and occasionally darkly comedic.

This short lecture will focus on how Ito expertly fuses together his writing and artistic style to create a deeply nihilistic world, crafting an overarching argument in his short stories about the inability for world to be change in a positive way.

It sounds very dark and upsetting – but I promise it will be fun!

comic panel

A Junji Ito panel

How did you become interested in Junji Ito?

I first found out about Ito through his wildly popular The Enigma of Amigara Fault. It’s a fantastic short story about the addictive nature of finding your place in the world, and how much we are willing to bend and twist ourselves to fit into the boxes society presents us with.

Ito, of course, interprets this literally [see following image].

comic panel

A Junji Ito panel

In starting my research into Ito I was shocked to find that there has not been much written about such a genius author, which really doubled-down my desire to analyze his work!

The Enigma of Amigara Fault is actually so popular on the internet it was referenced in the children’s show Steven Universe!

Gif from Steven Universe – https://imgur.com/gallery/ZxhhXR7

What draws you to this genre, and what are your related research interests?

I’ve been a big fan of anime and manga since I was in about 8th grade. It’s a medium that can be used to create such deep, inspiring stories, and I really don’t think it’s looked upon or elevated in scholarship the way it can be. With the growth of comics’ studies, I’m hoping anime and manga studies will begin to pick up more steam in the academe!

This interest also led me to found the The Journal of Anime and Manga Studies, an open access journal I was able to build with help from the University Library’s Scholarly Communication and Publishing department. The journal will be launched this spring!

comic panel

A Junji Ito panel

What are some interesting things that have come up in this research?

There is so much room for growth!

Anime and manga studies has been approached from so many different angles by so many different scholars, but there is still a massive amount of work that can (and should!) be done in this field.

I encourage anyone interested in studying anime and manga to simply dive in!

comic panel

A Junji Ito panel

You recently presented about this work at a conference – what is it like to be scholar of popular culture?

Every important piece of media, at one point, has been popular culture.

All of Shakespeare’s plays. Every Sherlock Holmes novel. It’s all been popular culture. Even literary classics like Dante’s Inferno could be seen as self-insert fanfictions.

The only difference is time.

Scholars of popular culture are on the front lines of public engagement, and I feel that analyzing popular culture is a great way to introduce students to theories, histories, and methodologies while also elevating the brilliant work happening all around us today.

Billy Tringali will present his lecture on Junji Ito at 3 pm Wednesday, October 31st at the International and Area Studies Library. Happy Halloween!

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World War I Centenary: The Destruction of the KU Leuven Library

The 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I is coming up in November, so to honor the centenary, the International and Area Studies Library is sharing resources and coverage of the war throughout the semester.

On my first official day as a graduate assistant at the International and Area Studies Library, I stared at the computer, my browser full of open tabs as I looked for more information on the German destruction of the Catholic University of Leuven Library. I remembered hearing a story about the August 25, 1914, fire when I went on a spring break class trip to Belgium during my freshman year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Mariah Schaefer in front of the KU Leuven Library

This is me in front of the KU Leuven Library.

My group, consisting of freshman students in the College of Media James Scholar program; an academic advisor; her mom; and Lisa Romero, the Communications Librarian at the University of Illinois Library, took a tour of the KU Leuven campus. Our guide, whose name I don’t remember, told us about how the Germans violently burned the city of Leuven, destroying many buildings, including the KU Leuven Library.

As we stopped in front of the library, he told us the rest of the story. Following the destruction of the library, academics around the world mobilized to help the KU Leuven Library. A librarian at the University of Manchester collected more than 55,000 donated books in ten years.

Fernanda Schaefer in front of the KU Leuven LIbrary

My twin sister, Fernanda Schaefer, points to the name of the University of Illinois carved on the KU Leuven Library building.

In the United States, the National Committee of the United States for the Restoration of the University of Louvain and the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which Herbert Hoover chaired, started raising money to construct a new library building. Many American academic and cultural institutions, including the University of Illinois and the New York Public Library, contributed to the fund.

Because of the money raised, KU Leuven began the construction of the new building in 1921. The library was completed in 1928. To show appreciation for the generosity of the American institutions, KU Leuven carved the names of the donors on the front of the new library building. The University of Illinois is in a prominent spot on the wall.

Note: Unfortunately, the KU Leuven Library was destroyed once again on May 16, 1940. After World War II, the building was reconstructed to look like the 1928 version and became fully operational only in 1951.   

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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

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