Published in Review, July-December 2001.
Larger Research Grants
Last year the Grants Committee made the first awards in its new scheme for Larger Research Grants (up to £20,000). The first reports on work that had been supported were awaited with interest, and the results did not disappoint. An account of a not entirely typical project is given in an article in this issue.
One of the main purposes of the Larger Research Grants scheme is to support fieldwork. Extracts from reports below iUustrate just a few of the studies currently being undertaken in other countries and other cultures. It is notable that a number of the projects involve research that must be undertaken now, or not at all, and it is gratifying that the Academy has been able to sponsor work of national and international significance through what is a relatively modest injection of funds.
Dr E.M. Edwards (De Montfort University): Revaluing the social fabric: changing patterns of production, use and exchange of textiles among Hindu pastoralists in Gujarat, India.
'This research focuses on the embroidered textiles of Hindu herders in Kachchh district, Gujarat. It features a case study of the nomadic Rabaris whose traditional caste occupation is camel-breeding, although they also keep sheep and goats or water buffaloes and cows. In common with other herding and fanning conmmnities in the rural areas of northwest India, the custom of dowry still persists among Rabaris and the gift is chiefly composed of embroidered textiles. In the last 20-30 years, dowry embroidery has been transformed from a gift used 10caUy within the Rabari conmmnity, to a commodity traded internationally.'
Professor G. Furniss (School of Oriental and African Studies): Documenting Hausa popular literature.
'This project is making available a listing of a remarkable cultural development in northern Nigeria during the decade of the 1990s, namely an explosion in the production of popular novellas. With the collapse of the Nigerian economy in the mid 1980s, formal publishing effectively ceased to function in much of Nigeria, particularly publishing in Nigerian languages. Nevertheless, the generation that had benefited from the introduction of Universal Primary Education in 1976 were, by this time, determined to use their literacy and pleasure in books to produce home-grown and home-produced books for the local market. Clubs and societies of writers formed in northern cities and they soon began to find a market for their locally-printed stories of crime, unrequited love, youthful rebellion, and the battle between good and evil. Many of these novellas appeared suddenly in the markets of northern cities and towns, and just as suddenly disappeared. This project documents a collection of some 600 titles, and intends to link up with other collections in Nigeria and elsewhere to provide a full account of this remarkable cultural phenomenon.'
Dr J.H. Keenan (University of Cambridge): Saharan Rock Art: the geopolitics and socio-economics of the destruction and conservation of Rock Art in the Sahara.
'The research examines the state of conservation of prehistoric rock art in the Sahara. A pan-Saharan review focuses on the extent, causes and human agencies of damage: looters, vandals, religious £lnatics, tourists and so on. It will conclude that much of the Sahara, which has been acclaimed as 'the world's greatest coUection of prehistoric rock art' is on the brink of an environmental catastrophe. The research, which is now in its second year, is focusing increasingly on the level of awareness of this damage amongst local peoples, their understanding of its implications for them and what m.ight be achievable in the way of introducing feasible conservation programmes. The research will also be making strong recommendations on the nature of economic activity in much of the Sahara, especially with regard to the urgent need to redevelop the tourism industry - the major cause of damage - on an environmentally sustainable basis.'
Dr D. Nelson (University of Leeds): Linguistic fieldwork and analysis of Inari Sami.
'Inari Sami is an endangered indigenous language of Finnish Lapland, with fewer than 400 speakers remaining. British Academy funding enabled two researchers, Diane Nelson and Ida Toivonen, to travel to Finland during the summer of 2001 in order to conduct linguistic fieldwork on this rapidly-disappearing language. Linguistic data collected during the summer are now being analysed. The researchers are working with a small set of informants, all native speakers of Inari Sami, to document the grammatical structure and sound system of the language, with the wider aim of writing a reference grammar over the next two years. Documentation and analysis of lnari Sami is an urgent priority, as it may aid local efforts toward language preservation and education in the Sami community.'
Approximately half of the awards made in the first competition were for work continuing over a span or two or three years, and fuller accounts of completed projects will appear in the pages of the Review in due course.
Towards the other end of the scale, the Small Research Grants scheme offers small amounts of money, typically to cover brief trips abroad. Dr K.F. McEvoy received an award last summer, and describes his research on 'Community Restorative Justice' in an article in this issue.
Besides monitoring the progress of its first batch of Larger Research Grants, the Academy has during the period of this Review received reports on some proportion of the hundreds of small research and conference grants made each year. In December 2001 the Grants Committee awarded another 83 Small Research Grants, 34 British Conference Grants, 50 individual Overseas Conference Grants and three Block Overseas Conference Grants. It also confirmed a Worldwide Congress Grant of £12,000 for the 16th Congress of the International Association for the History of Glass, which is to be held in the UK in 2003. The last time the UK hosted the Congress was in 1979. The event is convened triennially, and brings together archaeologists, economIc historians, museum curators, art historians, dealers, scientists and other researchers from all over the world.