The Social Life of Transcriptions: Interactions around Women’s Songs in Kangra


Moving oral traditions into the domain of the printed word involves a first step of transcription. Narayan argues for the value of reflecting on the practice of transcribing and the interactions generated around the material artifacts that are made in the course of moving oral tradition into written form. Unlike fieldnotes, transcriptions can represent mutually recognizable fragments of shared cultural knowledge. Invaluable for eliciting oral literary criticism and facilitating interpretive collaborations, transcriptions can also represent material talismans of continued relationships across time. Though each researcher’s experience with transcriptions is likely to be shaped by genre, social context, and intended goals, Narayan draws on examples from her work with women’s songs in Kangra, in the Western Himalayan foothills, to illustrate how transcriptions are a site of sociable interaction and insight.

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