The Sociology of a Text

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Vernon Totanes
Books 1000, University of Toronto
25 September 2006

Published in: Technology, Education
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  • I suppose our discussion can go in any direction, but I thought I’d just put up some points for discussion. One, is printing enough? Like New Zealand in the 1840s, I suspect that each Christian family in the Philippines has at least one Bible. But since there is a lot of evidence that those Bibles just gather dust, should they be called “books”?

    Two, “shotgun marriage.” There were probably no guns pointed at the Maori chiefs, but for people who valued oral culture, knew nothing of the importance of written documents, and just wanted to go home at the soonest possible time, they may have thought that affixing their “signatures” was meaningless. Whose point of view is more important? The British who wanted to educate the Maori? The Spaniards who “discovered” the Philippines? Or the natives?

    Three, the Philippines is said to be the text messaging capital of the world. And so, I should not have been surprised in my previous life as a high school religion teacher, when some of my students thought I was referring to “text messages” when I told them to “read the text.” Is this new technology covered by McKenzie’s sociology of the text?

    Finally, there’s “fish out of water.” Can we actually separate a book from the social context in which it was produced? Is it reasonable to read a text with no sense of its place in history OR a reader’s awareness of his own? A fish out of water is, in my opinion, like a book without a history. Thank you very much.
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  • [The Doctrina Christiana is said to be the first book printed in the Philippines. Another book that may have been printed a few months before or after it--the Doctrina Christiana in Chinese--says a lot about how many Chinese were then present in our part of the world.]

    Other documents worth mentioning in connection with McKenzie’s article is the Philippine Declaration of Independence in 1898. It’s not available on any Philippine website, but a thesis that had a facsimile in its appendix is available courtesy of the University of Michigan. It was written in Spanish and includes the following: “under the protection of the Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, the United States of America, we do hereby proclaim and declare...” Why did we have to declare independence in the language of our colonizers? Why mention another nation as a “protector” in a declaration of independence?

    And then there’s the 1898 Treaty of Paris, when Spain sold the Philippine Islands to the United States of America AFTER Filipinos declared independence. It’s not quite the same as the case of New Zealand, where there was at least some semblance of consultation, but I hope you can see why I had to get this off my chest.
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  • ...which also has samples of later forms of baybayin etched on bamboo tubes circa 1938.
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  • Last week, one of the questions Angela asked was, “if no one knows it’s there, does it exist?” She was, of course, referring to books, but in the case of my country, it is said to have been “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. [Magellan, in case you didn’t know, is referred to by some as the first to circumnavigate the world. But that can’t be true because he was killed by a native when he stepped on our shores.]

    Did we exist before we were “found”? Chinese records certainly provide evidence of trade with my ancestors, but the fact that Spaniards observed that the natives had an indigenous script called “baybayin” shows that the natives were literate. So literate, in fact, that some Spaniards, like the British in New Zealand, exaggerated the literacy levels. However, no records written in baybayin from the sixteenth century have been found. It has been suggested that none will be found because it was a primarily oral culture then, and that if there were any, these would have already crumbled because they were etched, not written, on bamboo tubes.

    The image on the right is a page from the Doctrina Christiana, a catechism written in Spanish, baybayin, and what is now known as Tagalog, which is--to paraphrase McKenzie--“the reduction of [baybayin] to its record in alphabetic form.” The book is available online through the Library of Congress...
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  • Now that you’ve seen the first of the nine signed copies of the Treaty of Waitangi, I should probably go back to the text. The following are just some of the more important points that I think McKenzie made about the Treaty and print in general, and a few of my observations.

    The treaty’s Maori name is Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and Waitangi literally means “the waters of lamentation,” which seems to be sadly appropriate. He mentions the fact that by 1845, there was one Bible for every two Maori, and points to the treatment of books as ritual objects by people in an oral society as evidence of reception, but agrees that printing helped to fix the Maori language, even as he notes that it was “not indigenous Maori but missionary Maori.” Take a look again at the Maori form of the Treaty of Waitangi. Does that look like indigenous or missionary Maori?

    Finally, there is the translation of the word “sovereignty,” which he says should have been translated as “mana” or “rangatiratanga.” Was it translated as “kawanatanga” to deceive the Maori chiefs or was it an honest mistake? We will probably never know.

    Now, I hope you’ll indulge me a little, and let me tell you a little about the Philippines, and share why I couldn’t help but recognize more than a little of our history in McKenzie’s article.
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  • Good afternoon. I was thinking of just giving handouts, but when I realized the nature of the source material, I thought it might be better to show documents on a screen. After setting up all the arrangements and finalizing my outline, I realized that it would, in fact, be appropriate to use--in McKenzie’s words--newer technology to heighten appreciation of the printed book, and maybe even orality and literacy. Let me start by quoting from the Adams and Barker article last week. This quote, in my opinion, highlights the differences between Darnton and McKenzie’s thoughts, on one hand, and Adams and Barker.
  • The Sociology of a Text

    1. 1. The Sociology of a Text <ul><li>Books 1000 </li></ul><ul><li>Vernon Totanes </li></ul><ul><li>25 September 2006 </li></ul>SLIDE 1
    2. 2. ...the weakness of Darnton’s scheme is that it deals with people rather than books. Adams and Barker Adams and Barker Adams and Barker SLIDE 2
    3. 3. <ul><li>What is a book? </li></ul><ul><li>What is history? </li></ul><ul><li>What is prehistory? </li></ul><ul><li>The sociology of texts </li></ul>What is Book History? SLIDE 3
    4. 4. <ul><li>Orality, literacy and print </li></ul><ul><li>The printed book </li></ul><ul><li>Newer technology </li></ul>Evolution of Bibliography SLIDE 4
    5. 5. <ul><li>“The Sociology of a Text: Orality, Literacy and Print in Early New Zealand (1984) ” </li></ul><ul><li>Oral Culture, Literacy and Print in early New Zealand: the Treaty of Waitangi (1985) </li></ul><ul><li>Missing: first nine paragraphs </li></ul><ul><li>Cut, rearrange, add </li></ul><ul><li>“Pakeha [i.e., Europeans]” </li></ul>From Article to Book SLIDE 5
    6. 6. The book, in all its forms, enters history only as an evidence of human behaviours, and it remains active only in the service of human needs. McKenzie (1984 & 1985) McKenzie (1984 & 1985) McKenzie (1984 & 1985) SLIDE 6
    7. 7. The circumstances described above do not mean that the treaty is a fraud and the documents useless. McKenzie (1985) (1985) (1985) SLIDE 7
    8. 8. SLIDE 8A
    9. 9. SLIDE 8B
    10. 10. SLIDE 8C
    11. 11. SLIDE 8D
    12. 12. SLIDE 8E
    13. 13. Newer Technology <ul><li>Information literacy </li></ul><ul><li>STA Training </li></ul><ul><li>Archives New Zealand </li></ul><ul><li>Waitangi Tribunal </li></ul><ul><li>Treaty of Waitangi </li></ul>SLIDE 9
    14. 14. <ul><li>a.k.a. Te Tiriti o Waitangi, “the waters of lamentation” </li></ul><ul><li>One Bible for every two Maori </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence of reception </li></ul><ul><li>Printing helped to fix the Maori language </li></ul><ul><li>Indigenous vs missionary Maori </li></ul><ul><li>Sovereignty - kawanatanga? </li></ul>Treaty of Waitangi SLIDE 10
    15. 15. The Philippines <ul><li>Ferdinand Magellan, 1521 </li></ul><ul><li>Baybayin </li></ul><ul><li>Bamboo tubes </li></ul><ul><li>Doctrina Christiana , 1593 </li></ul>SLIDE 11A
    16. 16. SLIDE 11B
    17. 17. The Philippines <ul><li>Declaration of Independence, 1898 </li></ul><ul><li>Treaty of Paris, 1898 </li></ul>SLIDE 12
    18. 18. <ul><li>Unread Bibles </li></ul><ul><li>Shotgun marriage </li></ul><ul><li>Text messages </li></ul><ul><li>Fish out of water </li></ul>Points for Discussion SLIDE 13

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