Project History

Our first web projects, “Bemba Pages” and “The Digital Polyglot” (Phase 1) were launched in 1998 and 1999, respectively, and were hosted at Emory University for over a decade.  We were early adopters with dozens of pages on the Bemba language, many of which included streaming audio.  The vision was to use the web as a form of public scholarship and to bring linguistic anthropology into the digital age via websites that accompanied published articles and that offered interactive lessons in comparative and typological linguistics.  Read more here.  Support was provided by the Emory University Teaching Fund.  Technical support was provided by David Charnon and Josh Walker.

Due to Emory platform changes and lacking a designated webmaster for site management, these sites were lost, dropped, or rendered unsupported over time.  “The Digital Polyglot” was dropped around 2011.  With Emory Scholar Blogs and the extensive support provided by Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, the process of site management is now more sustainable.  In May 2014 we returned to the work, to rebuild the earlier Phase 1 material and to create new material in Phase 2.  Major contributors are listed here.  Work during Phase 2 opened up a whole new set of questions regarding the possibilities of preservation, collection management, distribution, access, ethics, and responsibility in relation to fieldwork and radio recordings made by Debra Vidali during 1986-1990.   Some of these materials will be built into the BOP during the upcoming Phase 3 of work and it is anticipated that some will be included within an experimental ethnographic installation in Washington, DC in December 2014.

During the period 1986-1990, Debra Vidali conducted anthropological and linguistic fieldwork in Zambia as a PhD student from the University of Chicago, affiliated with the University of Zambia, at the Institute for African Studies, now Institute of Economic and Social Research (INESOR).  Her research focused on the Bemba language and the social and cultural impact of Zambian radio broadcasting, with an emphasis on national identity, modernity, and Bemba language programs.  She conducted research on media production at ZBS/ZNBC with radio broadcasters and media executives, as well as research on radio reception with listeners in Kasama, kwaChitimukulu, Kitwe, and Lusaka.  Various publications can be found here.

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