Category Archives: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Collecting for Global Diversity, Part 3

The third post in the blog series on the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Heidi Madden, Ph.D., Librarian for Western European and Medieval Renaissance Studies, International and Area Studies Department, Duke University Libraries.

Muslims represented around 5% of the total European Union (EU) population in 2016, and according to the World Fact Book, the highest numbers of Europe’s Muslims reside in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East (and parts of Africa) and seeking asylum in the EU has prompted heated debates about immigration, social integration, security policies, and religious freedom. In response to these debates, governments in several different EU countries have passed legislation restricting religious expression in public places (especially schools) in an effort to maintain a strict separation between church and state and to foster religious pluralism without creating civil strife.

The headscarf (Arabic: حجاب‎ ḥijāb, “cover, wrap, curtain, veil, screen, partition”‎) traditionally worn by some Muslim women in the presence of people outside of their immediate family, has received negative attention in these debates because it is seen as a visible signifier of religious identity. The first major controversy about women wearing Islamic headscarves occurred in France, in 1989, when three female students were suspended from school for refusing to remove their head scarfs (the media coverage at the time can be followed in our French newspaper database Eureka). This incident sparked controversy about the extent to which government legislation should be used for negotiating culture clashes. In the end, France passed a law in 2004 banning ostentatious religious clothing or objects in public schools, including the Islamic head scarf, the Jewish brimless cap (Hebrew: כִּיפָּה, kippah, “dome”), and large Christian crosses.  Since then, several European Union countries introduced similar legislation. A 2017 European Commission report on “Religious Clothing and Symbols in Employment,” authored by members of the European Network of Legal Experts in Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination and freely-available on the website of the Publications Office of the European Union, describes the chronology in greater detail.

It is within, and in response, to this polarized political context that Ayşe Taşci (b. 1983), a Turkish-born (Aydin, Turkey), German-based (in Bonn since 2003) photographer organized ÇAPRAŞIK – Verwickelt, a well-received exhibit of contemporary photographs featuring ḥijāb-wearing women.

Source: Ayşe Taşci, Çapraşik–Verwickelt (Bonn, 2010)

The exhibit, which took place in 2010, asked the viewers to question how they look at a woman in a Muslim headscarf and what they see when they do so. The rich, multilayered meaning of the hyphenated exhibition title, which employed both the Turkish word çapraşık and the German word Verwickelt, explicitly evoked the sense of being tangled, wrapped-up, complicated, knotted, complicit, and involved. These are the perfect words to describe the questions raised by Taşci’s photo exhibit. What is the relationship between veiling and unveiling? Does the wearer of a ḥijāb  hide or reveal her (religious, cultural, gendered) identity? Is the Muslim headscarf oppressive or emancipatory? How does a photographer represent the woman who wears a ḥijāb ? And how does photography itself veil, unveil, or stage the identity of women wearing a head covering?

Source: Ayşe Taşci, Çapraşik–Verwickelt (Bonn, 2010)

For example, what happens to viewer’s expectations when a photographer chooses to represent an ordinary woman’s wig as a headscarf? In Turkey, until 2013, wearing the veil at university, and other places, was prohibited. In order to get around this law, Turkish women would wear a headscarf over their hair and then put a wig over the headscarf. Would the act of photographing this kind of life-hack advance or hinder women’s participation in the public sphere?

Taşci’s exhibit helped visitors examine the complicated dynamic between their own unexamined, and often prejudiced, way of seeing the ḥijāb. Viewers also became aware of the often-unacknowledged power wielded by photographers, and the mass media in general, in creating positive or negative discourse through the mobilization of emotive images. By this means, the exhibit “entangled” the viewer and created “a space for open discourse, controversial debates and dialog between photography, art and people.”

The exhibit ÇAPRAŞIK – Verwickelt was based on Ayşe Taşcis master’s thesis at Folkwang University of the Arts (Essen, Germany), which was published in a very small print run at the beginning of her professional career. Professor Claudia Koonz, a noted European Studies expert at Duke University, who discovered the exhibit, suggested that the library purchase Taşci’s Diplomarbeit, because it is an evocative example of the kind of visual materials often used as primary sources, both in student term papers and in academic research publications. The acquisition of this primary visual source strengthens Duke University Libraries’ collection on Turkish-German relations, Islamophobia, gender, visual, and migration studies in Europe.  It also contributes to the pedagogical mission of the university by emphasizing visual literacy— an increasingly important skill of critical thinking and an essential component of a 21st-century education—potentially serving as the library’s counterpart to the visual materials in How Do You Look?, the online portal for the promotion of visual literacy hosted by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Just as importantly, the acquisition of this rare publication, which at the time of this writing is still held only by Duke University Libraries, allows us to see the Muslim experience in Europe from Taşcis unique perspective.  The book thus serves not only as a physical reminder of our commitment to building collections of distinction, but also to the broader mission of collecting for global diversity.

Readers who wish to see more photos from Ayşe Taşci’s exhibit on the ḥijāb are welcome to check out her book, which is located in the Lower Stacks (LL2) of the Perkins & Bostock Library on Duke’s West Campus.  You can also can consult the online article about ÇAPRAŞIK – Verwickelt on the German website Art à la Turka, which contains a number of evocative images from the exhibit.

Collecting for Global Diversity, Part 2

The second post in the IAS blog series on the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Holly Ackerman, Head, International & Area Studies Dept. and Librarian for Latin American, Iberian and Latino/a/x Studies.

The need to collaborate in collecting has risen swiftly on library agendas everywhere as a result of both the financial crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic and the simultaneous rise in concern about promoting and augmenting diversity, equity and inclusion. Everyone is asking, “How can we collect and spotlight a wider range of voices, cultures, races, languages, genders, and cross-cutting themes even as our budgets stumble and fall?”

Here at Duke University Libraries, we are fortunate to participate in a long and healthy tradition of cooperation within the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN), where the collaboration between Duke’s International and Area Studies Department (IAS) and UNC’s Global Resources and Area Studies Section (GRAS) is particularly vigorous. But other, lesser-known national projects have also steadily obtained unique, difficult-to-acquire, ethnically- and linguistically-diverse materials. One of these, which I will describe in this blog post, is the Latin American & Caribbean Distributed Resources Project (DRP).

Coordination of DRP is located at the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago as part of their overall Global Resources Program and is now celebrating twenty-five years of systematically assuring deep collecting of culturally and linguistically diverse materials from the thirty-three countries in the region.

What is the Distributed Resources Project?

DRP is a pledge made by 35 university research libraries in 1995, to reallocate a portion of their collections budget for Latin America toward enhanced coverage of ‘non-core’ materials in order to collect more deeply in specific areas of institutional specialization. Each institution chose 1-3 subjects of particular strength at their university where other universities would have interest but probably lack funds to collect deeply. The project deliberately built on existing strengths, believing it would lead to long-range commitment. After 25 years it’s still working!

Chosen subjects included particular countries, geographic regions, or unique subjects such as the African Diaspora in Latin America (the U. of Wisconsin) or Indigenous Languages and Literature (Indiana University). Duke University initially chose to collect on Latin American & Caribbean Labor History and the struggles for justice that accompany labor organizing. In 2003, we added a second focus on Political Humor & Caricature.  Each institution began by diverting 7% of their overall budget for Latin American Studies to the selected resource area while relying on other institutions to pick up deep collecting in their chosen area. Each institution also pledged to rapidly process materials acquired by DRP so that they would be rapidly available to users everywhere via their institution’s interlibrary loan service.

Over time these small amounts have grown and in the last two annual reports (with only 25 of 35 members reporting) collective spending ranged from $400,000 to $500,000 per year. Over the life of the program, more than $10 million has been devoted to this deep collecting dive. Small initial steps have resulted in distinctive collections (in local languages) that are rapidly available, and, equally important, are known to Latin American Studies librarians everywhere.

How do we obtain the DRP materials?

First, you put on your walking shoes. I remember well walking the “miles of aisles” at Guadalajara, Mexico’s huge national book fair a few years ago, where hundreds of exhibitors offer limited-edition books in Spanish, Portuguese, and indigenous languages published throughout Latin America.

Guadalajara International Book Fair

Over 800,000 thousand people attend this fair annually. Schoolchildren from every part of Mexico are bused to the fair to encourage their interest in books and reading. The kids rub shoulders with world-class intellectuals who speak about their work. And, of course, Latin American Studies Librarians are there is such large numbers that they give us a couple of days before the fair opens to the public to be sure that the books make it into libraries throughout the world.

At each stand I routinely ask whether they have materials in our DRP collecting areas. One vendor pulled out a box that was not on display containing a series called The History of Graphic Humor (La historia del humor gráfico), in thirteen volumes, one on each major country in Latin America and Iberia. In order to feature local appreciation of humor in each country, the publisher engaged a well-known local historian of the subject as the author. The books contained history and illustrative examples of political satire and popular cartoons from colonial days to the present.

Three books from the series “The History of Graphic Humor = La historia del humor gráfico”

They had just one complete set at the fair and I got it. A great find for our deep collecting! Each year when students in Spanish and Latin American Studies courses ask me where they can find political cartoons and learn about the graphic artists, I see the value of that purchase. And those numbers are growing as more students include primary, graphic materials in their class presentations.

Another way to meet our DRP commitment is to couple conference attendance with book-buying. In 2018, I was able to participate in the annual Latin American Studies Association Congress in Barcelona, which is the publishing capital of Spain.  I extended my stay for a couple of days to go to over 20 specialized bookstores and publishing houses. Best known and unique among the bookstores is El Lokal, which is located in a section of town historically renowned as the site of labor-organizing and -protest. The district was the epicenter of resistance to the fascist Franco regime and you can feel history in those streets.

El Lokal Bookstore (Barcelona, Spain)

In a very small space, the book store carries a huge cross-section of Marxist, anarchist, Trotskyist and other leftist thought . And since El Lokal is also a publisher, the store is chock-full of books about everything related to the labor movement, from labor resistance in Spain to indigenous resistance to forced labor under Spanish colonization in what is today Latin America.

Two books on labor and indigenous resistance, published and sold in El Lokal Bookstore

In other words, this independent, specialized, local bookstore is a veritable treasure trove for a librarian tasked with finding and acquiring unique material on Iberian and Latin American labor history, politics, and theory. This sort of in-country “shopping” not only deepens our DRP collection but also saves money. Our regular Spanish book vendor worked with me to have all the books I selected (at a discount negotiated at each store in Barcelona) moved to their warehouse in Madrid and sent to Durham simply at the shipping cost. Those savings outstrip the cost of the book-buying trip itself.

These are just a couple of examples among many of how we in IAS cooperate with other libraries to be sure that collecting on unique and important subjects is systematically covered and not forgotten in hard times.

Dr. Deborah Jakubs, 2017, in conversation with Daniel Divinsky, founder and editor of the publishing house Ediciones de la Flor, on his radio program “Books Talk” at the University of Buenos Aires

The Duke University Libraries can also be proud of the fact that Deborah Jakubs, Ph.D. , Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian, Vice Provost for Library Affairs, and Duke’s former Latin American Librarian, was one of the founders of the Global Resources Program of which the DRP is a part. When asked how she and her colleagues came up with the idea for this exemplar of cooperative collection development she replied, “We were trying different ‘proof of concept’ approaches to sharing responsibility for collection building in area studies.” In difficult financial times such as the present, the DRP members have turned that proof of concept into a tradition assuring that diverse perspectives from Spain, Latin America, and the Caribbean will be represented in the distinctive holdings of Duke University Library and, thanks to interlibrary loan and resource-sharing arrangements with TRLN and the IvyPlus Libraries Confederation, in university research libraries throughout the United States.

Those wishing to read more about the Global Resources Projects on Latin America will want to consult the description offered by one of the founders of this initiative, the late Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collection Development, Dan Hazen, “The Latin Americanist Research Resources Project: A New Direction for Monographic Cooperation?” ARL: A Bimonthly Newsletter of Research Library Issues and Actions (April 1997), pp. 1-6.

 

Collecting for Global Diversity

This prefatory blog post to a series exploring the role of international collections and their collectors in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion was contributed by Sean Swanick, Luo Zhou, and Ernest Zitser, respectively the Chinese, Middle Eastern & Islamic, and Russian, Eurasian, & East European studies librarians, in the International and Area Studies Department of Duke University Libraries.

One can think of the variegated research materials (foreign-language books, journals, databases, photographs, postcards, etc.) acquired by the staff of Duke University Library’s International and Area Studies (IAS) department in at least two ways.  For some, they are the relatively poorly-circulating counterparts of the bread-and-butter titles in a predominantly English-language, general collection. For others, they are a unique, difficult-to-acquire, distinct, and special collection (with a small “S”) in its own right. However, regardless of how they are described, their provenance, or their eventual location within the library (on- or off-site, general- or special collection), international materials serve as conduits of ideas and identities across linguistic boundaries and cultural barriers. In this way, international collections are both transgressive and transformative.

This diversity applies not only to the material resources that IAS librarians collect to further the research and teaching of international topics at Duke University, but also to the core mission, organization, and composition of the department itself.  Not surprisingly, IAS is structured by geography and seeks to represent as many different parts of the world as possible: Asia (inclusive of the Middle East, South & Southeast Asia), Eurasia (Russia and former Soviet countries), Eastern and Western Europe, Africa (northern and sub-Saharan), as well as Latin America & Iberia. Nor is it surprising that IAS librarians are as diverse, multi-lingual, and international as the collections that they curate.  Only two of IAS’ current eight members were born in the US. All the rest moved from their home countries to work here at Duke University Libraries. Regardless of their differences—ethnic, linguistic, or religious—they all serve as intermediaries between one culture and another.  And they all share the unpleasant experience of dealing with border guards and customs agents, that is, the authorities who control the flow of goods and people into and out of a country and who are responsible for collecting government tariffs—the duties or taxes imposed on imported or exported goods and, before the abolition of the international slave trade, also on commodified human beings.

Smyrne, Les quais et le bureau des passeports = İzmir, the Docks and the Passport Office.
Smyrne, Les quais et le bureau des passeports = İzmir, the Docks and the Passport Office. İzmir (Smyrna) postcards and photographs collection. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

The French word for customs is douane—a variant on the Arabic word دیوان (dīwān), which likely came to Arabic from Persian/Farsi.  This word is thought to have arrived in France via the Mediterranean island of Sicily (the “toe” of Italy’s “boot”), which at one point in time hosted a significant Arab population. Although the etymology of the mellifluous-sounding French word hints at a process of cross-cultural fertilization (Persian to Arabic to French via Italy), in practice, a customs house serves as an architectural embodiment of the process by which established, governmental authorities label and domesticate the “Other.” A douane, in other words, is a stark reminder of the fact that you are crossing a demarcated border and entering a foreign country, a land where you do not really belong and where you are the unwelcome stranger.

Anyone who has ever travelled internationally knows that every time you enter a foreign country, you have to engage in certain social conventions: show a valid passport and (entry) visa, then explain why you are entering, why you left, where you went, and for how long. Even if you are just a librarian returning from an international book-buying trip or book fair, you are bound to be stopped at the border: “Welcome to the US, Mr. Swanick: Have you ever been to Yemen? When was the last time you visited Syria? And what was the purpose of your visit?” Or else: “I don’t recognize this visa, please come with me”—a phrase that sends chills up and down a global traveler’s spine, no matter which country’s customs agent pronounces it.  International borders, like the customs houses and checkpoints built alongside them, affirm your identity and nationality, whether you like it or not. They are meant to exclude the “Other,” to limit diversity, and to demonstrate your inequality vis-à-vis the natives of the country you are visiting. They are, in a word, the polar opposite of the global perspective cultivated by IAS.

Yichang (Ichang) Customs Station = 宜昌海关站 (1917). Sidney D. Gamble Photographs. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Yichang (Ichang) Customs Station = 宜昌海关站 (1917). Sidney D. Gamble Photographs. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

As the international border-crossing experience painfully demonstrates, the world and its inhabitants could stand with a little less “othering” and a lot more diversity. But what does “being” diverse mean for the international and area studies specialists of Duke University Libraries? Over the course of the next several months, a series of blog posts by different members of IAS will attempt to examine how our work as builders and curators of the library’s international collections contributes to the on-going, campus-wide conversation about equity, diversity, and inclusion.  We hope you will read our entries in the spirit in which they were intended and contact us if you have any comments, criticisms, or (we hope) compliments.

Stay tuned!