Alright, so I was gonna ask this on the SCA facebook page. But based on a discussion I just read, the page is full of ableist, old, ornery, flaming white douches. Which leads me to believe they’re likely racist to boot.
I’m hoping for a more interesting, educating and peaceful discussion on here. If you aren’t in the SCA but want to get in on this, please do! I’m exceptionally curious about this topic.
So within the SCA you develop a persona/character based on a time period and culture. Most people go with viking, roman or western European. There are loads of others but those make up the bulk of it.
When explaining the SCA to someone and how to join it, I told them about developing a persona. I said that unless they are of certain closed cultures, they should avoid making a persona based on them (specifically; First Nations peoples, Maya and Inca. I realize now I should have also included Romani). When listing personas I know of, I listed Mongolian as one. This didn’t appear to be appropriation to me at the time, because he portrays it well and also from a time during the Mongolian empire, when they were oppressors rather than the oppressed. I got an ask about it and that fueled my curiosity.
We say white people can’t experience racism or cultural appropriation because they (we) are the oppressors and the dominant culture. Does this apply as well to dominant cultures in the past? Is it cultural appropriation if you are portraying a persona accurately (something the SCA as a whole strives for) and respectfully from a time when they themselves were the oppressors?
It is my understanding that because we’re doing the research into the history and material culture of the civilizations in our scope, and not just wearing it like a costume, it isn’t appropriation.
I have approximately 0% Chinese heritage, but my latest research project has been the Tang Dynasty. I was afraid to do it at first, because I didn’t want to be approproative, but I’m glad I did. I learned about an amazing period of Chinese history, and I’ve been able to share that with others. It has also expanded my social sphere as I have discovered the SCA folk who are also interested in ancient/imperial China. I don’t have a Chinese persona, but apart from having an SCA name, I don’t play the persona game.
If you’re respectful and approach something with honest interest and scholarly intent, you’ll be fine. If someone accuses you of approproation, all you can do is apologize and try to explain your intent. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something new and make a new friend.
So the University of Iowa Libraries has this DIY thing for the historian in all of us – transcribing old texts and handwritten letters for the public record. It’s a group effort, and the sort of nitty gritty thing you’d get to do if you actually used your history degree for a thing related to it.
English Heritage has a long tradition of producing highly illustrated archaeological monographs about key sites and topics of importance to the understanding of the historic environment in England. Many of the past titles have long been out of print… As a service to the wider archaeological community, English Heritage is now making these titles available as ebooks, available from their website, and as PDFs which can be accessed from the ADS for free.
You’re chugging along doing your research, and you see a site that looks promising. Best of all, it’s by another Scadian. You gasp with joy and excitement! Someone else is interested in the Weird Thing You’re Researching and has already done some of the legwork! And sometimes, what you’re looking at is an image – in a search engine, Pinterest, or some other place – that is spot-on the kind of thing you’re looking for.
Eagerly, with much anticipation, you click the link.
But then your hopes are broken when the site is either not there, broken, or otherwise doesn’t live up to your expectations of Glorious Research Breakthrough.
It probably did, at some point. But we Scadians are really bad about webpage upkeep, it seems.
Feel better, my fellow Catalog Crawlers. For I have a tool for you. It carries a +5 to Research bonus to boot!
Enter a web address, and you can see a timeline of when it was last archived – and more often than not, you have some choices.
Case in point: The Purple Lotus and Leah’s Attempts to Research Sasanian Persia.
I found a series of delicious, delicious pins of metal plates depicting women in the Sasanian period. But when I clicked on them, they took me to a site that had information, but no pictures. Pictures mean context! It was clear to me that the author was changing her website around, and the HTML that pointed to the images was broken. I didn’t lose faith though! I waited a bit to see if she was in the middle of fixing it, but after a few weeks, I went to the WayBack Machine.
Not only is thepurplelotus.org archived, but it has been archived several times. The earliest snapshot had a PDF of the information I wanted, but it wouldn’t load – but I wasn’t surprised. A snapshot from 2011 had what I wanted – the article, plus images. One print-dialog later, where I chose to save the “print” as a PDF instead of sending it to the printer, and I’m home free.
So take heart, my Delvers of Dusty Dissertations! The WayBack Machine will resurrect that old dead website (most of the time) and get you the information you seek!
“Grand Study Hall, New York Public Library”, by Alex Proimos, CC By-NC 2.0
1. When you’re searching an online catalog or a database, be aware of the subject terms listed on entries you think may be relevant to your question/topic. In most systems, these are links that will help you either broaden or narrow your search.
2. When you go to the shelf to find that perfect thing and it ends up being not-so-perfect, look around – in both the Dewey and Library of Congress systems, similar items are shelved together. Just because the item corresponding to the call number you wrote down on a small scrap of paper with a golf pencil didn’t pan out, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a diamond lurking in one of the books near it. For many SCA topics, you can find a chapter or section of a book on a larger topic that is relevant to your specific research need.
3. Don’t forget databases! These tools are wonderful treasure troves of information that cost your library a pretty penny – and cost you NOTHING. Search them! The History Reference Center and MasterFILE Premier (both by EBSCO) are decent resources. If your library gives you access to JSTOR or ArtStor, consider yourself very lucky – these resources are amazing (especially ArtStor – you can see if your institution [or one near you that will give you privileges] has access by looking here. If there is a university near you listed, don’t hesitate to go visit – you may not be able to access remotely, but you should be able to get on using a computer at the library. Seriously. ArtStor is awesome. I miss having access to it.).
4. Despite what Cecil tells you, librarians aren’t that dangerous. We like helping people. Make use of your librarian! For some SCA stuff, you may have to be patient – your friendly neighborhood reference librarian is probably used to helping a few undergrads but mostly high school and younger researchers find stuff. Be very specific, and don’t worry about scaring them. They aren’t like the fabric store people who ask “what are you making?” just to make small talk – the more you tell them, the better help they can give.
5. Use Worldcat – it will show you everything that OCLC (basically this massive library records conglomerate thing) has records for – and they have records for pretty much everything. You can create a free account and make lists. You can see a list of resources I’ve made on period fools/jesters here: [x] It’s a great way to keep all your resources in one spot (esp. when it comes time to write your bibliography).
6. Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask librarians. Ask me. Ask the hiveminds of Facebook and Tumblr. Even if someone doesn’t know the answer or can’t point you to a resource, nine times out of ten they can point you to someone who can. That’s one thing that the SCA does really, really well. We connect people who are interested about X with other people who are also interested about X.
7. When I take notes, I write down exact quotes, followed by a brief citation (usually in Google Drive or Evernote). This is based on a practice instilled in me by Mrs. Thistle, my 10th grade English teacher, and strengthed by Mrs. Utley, my 12th grade English teacher. Only they had us use notecards. Anyway, even if it isn’t the exact format of the citation you’ll use when you write up your documentation (whether you do APA, MLA, or footnotes), it will help you in terms of remembering where you got that information. By doing an exact quote in your notes, it will also help you paraphrase when you actually write and avoid accidentally plagiarizing.
I could probably write more, but I’ll stop for now.
That sounds really weird, because I feel like I’m a librarian no matter what I’m doing. It’s just part of who I am, you know? I just do it. At work, yeah. But in restaurants, cars, random conversations at home. Someone says something. I look stuff up. I share said stuff. It’s just me.