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Dean's Fellows Projects

Manuel Zapata Olivella Collection - Ethnographic Collection

Description: Manuel Zapata Olivella (1920-2004) was a noted Colombian anthropologist, folklorist, physician, playwright and novelist; his work to document and preserve the history and culture of Afro-Colombia through oral history, television, radio, and literature is legendary. He is also known throughout Latin America as the “Dean of Black Literature” and is considered one of the 20th century’s most important Afro-Hispanic narrators.  Vanderbilt’s Special Collections houses his personal papers that consist of over one hundred fifty boxes of manuscripts, correspondence, publications, tapes, interviews, scrapbooks, and photographs.  The collection is a unique window on the history and society of Colombia and on people of African descent in the Americas as a whole.

His ethnographic collection (Grupo etnográfico) consists of audio and written transcripts of interviews from a wide range of ethnic groups, including many who were marginalized and from remote areas.  Interviews focused on health, traditional medicine, healers, plants and food ways, witchcraft, religious traditions, fiestas, marriage and death rituals, music, folk tales, and magic. There is considerable interest by the Colombian public and Colombianist scholars internationally in gaining online access to his collection.

Duties: Identify the most interesting and revealing portions of the ethnographic collection (approximately 16 boxes) and create metadata in preparation for their digitization.  Create a small online exhibit of selected ethnographies with maps and photographs highlighting regional variations.  Write brief corresponding essays for the online exhibit that trace Colombia’s regional and ethnic differences and underscore the impact this has had on contemporary Colombia.

Skills Needed Or To Be Developed: Spanish required; interest in Latin American anthropology or history desirable. To be acquired: research skills to gather information about Zapata Olivella and Colombian ethnicities and belief systems through research in the documents and other primary and secondary sources; archival procedures, preservation techniques and design for the online exhibit.

Mentors: Paula Covington, Latin American Librarian; Lesley Gill, Professor of Anthropology; Kathy Smith, Associate Director of Special Collections and University Archives

Additional project team members: Carla Beals (Digital Projects and Exhibits, Vanderbilt University Library)

Dates of Employment: Spring 2016 (1 semester)

Potential Candidates: Students interested in Latin American anthropology, cultural history, and Afro-Hispanic studies

Contact: Paula Covington

Please follow the Application Process to apply for this fellowship. Applications will be accepted through October 30, 2015.

See other Spring 2016 Fellowships