Dr. Charles Jarrett and Dr. David Lucas are beginning the second year of a two-year pilot study on Gullah culture and language. This study has significance for people concerned with preserving the history, culture, and language of African Americans living in rural regions of the United States. Gullahs represent a traditional, rural population with extensive economic and emotional ties to their homelands. The construction of bridges in the 1950's, connecting coastal Sea Islands with mainland areas, led to land development initiatives in the form of gated communities, expensive homes, elaborate country clubs, and elite hotel properties. The creation of a thriving coastal tourist industry, and an ever-increasing scale of interaction with outsiders from the mainland, presented a series of potential threats to the traditional Gullah 'way of life.'
This two-year pilot study reflects a descriptive analysis of important aspects of Gullah culture, and it explores the perceived impacts of land development initiatives on the dissipation of Gullah culture. Rapid Rural Appraisal, an effective method of assessing the needs of rural populations, provides the foundation of data collection. Folknography, a modified version of RRA, has been introduced for the purpose of gaining a better empathy for, and empathetic understanding of, the Gullah/Geechee point of view.
Folknography is founded on principles of ethnographic research and phenomenological sociology. Ethnography is defined as the work of describing cultures, with a goal of understanding another way of life from the 'native point of view.' Folknographers share with ethnographers a philosophical commitment to investigate cultural norms, values, beliefs, practices, and human artifacts, especially as these entities connect to the wider social processes of a whole 'way of life.' Contemporary expressions of phenomenological sociology suggest human beings possess the ability to create their own social reality. Folknography promotes a conscious decision to investigate social reality from the subjective perspective of a particular folk under investigation.
The following information reflects the experiences of Charles Jarrett and David Lucas in the Sea Islands of South Carolina during June-July, 2002.
|Dr. Lucas remained in the field from June 2, 2002 through June 7, 2002. (See Dr. Lucas' field notes). David returned to Ironton June 8, 2002, presenting a keynote address for graduates of Ohio University Southern Campus. David remained on campus teaching courses during Summer I and directing the student activities of Los Amigos Internacionale. Dr. Lucas is currently teaching a course for Ohio University in Hong Kong.
Dr. Jarrett remained in the field from June 2, 2002 through July 8, 2002.
Charles taught a sociology course for the University of South Carolina Beaufort (Race and Ethnic Relations) and continued the process of data collection required for completion of the two-year pilot study on Gullah culture. Charles' class at USCB-HH entered into an 'interactive study'
of Gullah culture with assistance from Marquetta L. Goodwine.
As partial fulfillment of course objectives, Dr. Jarrett's students learned principles of field research within the context of a practical and informative pedagogical exercise. Students used principles of Folknography during interactions with Gullahs living on St. Helena Island and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The project required students to vigorously apply a synthesis of academic skills including writing, oral communication, analytical thinking, critical thinking, techniques of interviewing, and technical expertise in the field.
Research activities are provided on a week-by-week basis.