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September’s Kappe Reading List Investigates Global Material Culture and Construction

Recent acquisitions for the SCI-Arc Kappe Library’s Diversifying the Discourse project include titles that focus on global construction technologies in art, design, and architecture. From investigations into Indigenous sailing technology and aboriginal architecture across Hawai’I and Australian, respectively, to a comprehensive history of women and gender non-conforming persons who work in wood craft, to in-depth explorations into African material culture and metallurgy.

Each quarter, SCI-Arc releases a reading list, curated by the Kappe Library's Manager Kevin McMahon and Librarian Stefanie Crump, representing a cohesive, interdisciplinary collection of books featuring pertinent themes and authors. The reading lists reflect the overall mission of the Kappe Library to build its collection with representation and inclusivity in mind, but also incongruity, specificity, and relevance to the discourses taking place at SCI-Arc.

Peruse the full list of this month’s selections below.

Building from Tradition: Local Materials and Methods in Contemporary Architecture, Elizabeth Golden / 2018 / Routledge
Building from Tradition examines the recent resurgence of interest in the handmade building and the use of local and renewable materials in contemporary construction. In the past, raw materials were shaped to provide shelter and to accommodate the cultural, social, and economic needs of individuals and communities. This is still true today as architects, engineers, and builders turn once again to local resources and methods, not simply for constructing buildings, but also as a strategy for supporting social engagement, sustainable development, and cultural continuity.

Building from Tradition features global case studies that allow readers to understand how building practices―developed and refined by previous generations―continue to be adapted to suit a broad range of cultural and environmental contexts.

Connecting the Kingdom: Sailing Vessels in the Early Hawaiian Monarchy, 1790-1840, Peter R. Mills / 2023 / University of Hawai'i Press
In this groundbreaking work, Peter Mills reveals a wealth of insight into the emergence of the Hawaiian nation-state from sources mostly ignored by colonial and post-colonial historians alike. By examining how early Hawaiian chiefs appropriated Western sailing technology to help build their island nation, Mills presents the fascinating history of sixty Hawaiian-owned schooners, brigs, barks, and peleleu canoes. While these vessels have often been dismissed as examples of chiefly folly, Mills highlights their significance in Hawaiʻi’s rapidly evolving monarchy, and aptly demonstrates how the monarchy’s own nineteenth-century sailing fleet facilitated fundamental transformations of interisland tributary systems, alliance building, exchange systems, and emergent forms of Indigenous capitalism.

Gunyah Goondie + Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia, Paul Memmott / 2023 / Thames & Hudson
The definitive guide to Australian Indigenous architecture, comprehensively updated to showcase the flourishing Indigenous design practices reshaping Australia's architectural landscape. The award-winning Gunyah Goondie + Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia is the only continental survey of Australia’s First Nations' innovative architecture. It explores the range and complexity of Indigenous-designed structures and spaces, from minimalist shelters to semi-permanent houses and villages, debunking false perceptions of early Aboriginal constructions and settlements.

Built on decades of research and field work and richly illustrated with rare photographs, Gunyah Goondie + Wurley offers insight into the lifestyles and cultural heritage of Australia's Indigenous peoples, and how they combine to have a dynamic influence on the country.

Joinery, Joists and Gender: A History of Woodworking for the 21st Century, Deirdre Visser / 2022 / Routledge
Joinery, Joists and Gender: A History of Woodworking for the 21st Century is the first publication of its kind to survey the long and rich histories of women and gender non-conforming persons who work in wood. Written for craft practitioners, design students, and readers interested in the intersections of gender and labor history—with 200 full-color images, both historical and contemporary—this book provides an accessible and insightful entry into the histories, practices, and lived experiences of women and nonbinary makers in woodworking.

The author presents a woodworking history primarily in Europe and the United States that highlights the practical and philosophical issues that have marked women’s participation in the field. Research focuses on a diverse range of practitioners from Lady Yun to Adina White. Through studio visits, interviews, and photographs of space and process, the book uncovers the varied practices and contributions these diverse artisans make to the understanding of wood as a medium to engage spatial, material, aesthetic, and even existential challenges.

Metals in Past Societies: Global Perspective on Indigenous African Metallurgy, Shadreck Chirikure / 2015 / Springer International Publishing
This slim book shines a spotlight on pre-industrial African metallurgy, its global connections, and anthropological implications. It integrates seemingly disparate disciplines, such as history, geology, ethnography, archeology, and metallurgy, to illustrate the diversity and innovation in metallurgy across Africa and the role of metals in the rise of socioeconomic inequalities and political power. The book has seven chapters, and the focus on metals, mainly iron, copper, gold, silver, lead, and tin, catering to human needs and wants is evident in each chapter. The sources of information are adequately cited, and the long list of references at the end of each chapter will be a boon to researchers in this field.

Nonconventional and Vernacular Construction Materials: Characterization, Properties and Applications, Kent A. Harries and Bhavna Sharma (Editors) / 2016 / Elsevier Science & Technology
Nonconventional and Vernacular Construction Materials: Characterization, Properties and Applications, Second Edition covers the topic by taking into account sustainability, the conservation movement, and current interests in cultural identity and its preservation. This updated edition presents case studies, information on relevant codes and regulations, and how they apply (or do not apply) to nocmats. Leading international experts contribute chapters on current applications and the engineering of these construction materials. Sections review vernacular construction, provide future directions for nonconventional and vernacular materials research, focus on natural fibers, and cover the use of industrial byproducts and natural ashes in cement mortar and concrete.

Old Stories, New Ways: Conversations About an Architecture Inspired by Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Vivian Manasc / 2020 / Red Crow College
Vivian Manasc, one of the founders of Manasc Isaac Architects, has pioneered sustainable architecture in Canada. Her work in partnership with Indigenous communities has been her greatest inspiration, and it has transformed the very nature of her practice. Through the profound lessons of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, Vivian came to understand that the process of planning and designing a building should be a circle, with the beginning and end of the story linked together.

The stories Vivian tells in Old Stories, New Ways are also framed by these teachings of Courage, Love, Wisdom, Respect, Truth, Humility and Honesty, with each teaching illuminating an aspect of how working with Dene, Cree, Saulteaux, Métis, Inuit and Inuvialuit communities has influenced her design practice.

Our Knowledge is Not Primitive: Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings, Wendy Djinn Geniusz / 2023 / Syracuse University Press
Traditional Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Chippewa) knowledge, like the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples around the world, has long been collected and presented by researchers who were not a part of the culture they observed. The result is a colonized version of the knowledge, one that is distorted and trivialized by an ill-suited Eurocentric paradigm of scientific investigation and classification. In Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive, Wendy Makoons Geniusz contrasts the way in which Anishinaabe botanical knowledge is presented in the academic record with how it is preserved in Anishinaabe culture. In doing so she seeks to open a dialogue between the two communities to discuss methods for decolonizing existing texts and to develop innovative approaches for conducting more culturally meaningful research in the future.

As an Anishinaabe who grew up in a household practicing traditional medicine and who went on to become a scholar of American Indian studies and the Ojibwe language, Geniusz possesses the authority of someone with a foot firmly planted in each world. Her unique ability to navigate both indigenous and scientific perspectives makes this book an invaluable contribution to the field of Native American studies and enriches our understanding of the Anishinaabe and other native communities.

Precolonial African Material Culture: Combatting Stereotypes of Technological Backwardness, Tarikhu Farrar / 2020 / Lexington Books
The idea of an inherent backwardness of technology and material culture in early sub-Saharan Africa is a persistent and tenacious myth in the scholarly and popular imagination. Due to the emergence of the field of African studies and the upsurge in historical and archaeological research, in recent decades the stridency of this myth has weakened, and the overtly racist content of arguments mustered in its defense have tended to disappear. But more important are transformations in social, political, and cultural consciousness, which have worked to reshape conceptualizations of African peoples, their histories, and their cultures. Precolonial African Material Culture offers a thorough challenge to the myth of technological backwardness. V. Tarikhu Farrar revisits the early technology of sub-Saharan Africa as revealed by recent research and reconsiders long-possessed primary historical sources. He then explores the ways that indigenous African technologies have influenced the world beyond the African continent.

Te Toki me te Whao: The Story and Use of Måaori Tools, Clive Fugill / 2016 / Oratia
This book is the culmination of more than 50 years of study, experience and collecting. It provides a complete account of Maori tools. The first part of the book explores legendary adzes and craftsmen, while the second part analyzes the location and exploitation of the principal stone resources (including basalt, obsidian, and pounamu). The latter parts outline the manufacture, classification and use of the adze and the chisel, as well as the Maori drill and other tools. There are more than 80 detailed drawings and color photographs.

Technology in World Civilization: A Thousand-Year History, Arnold Pacey and Francesca Bray / 2021 / MIT Press
Most general histories of technology are Eurocentrist, focusing on a main line of Western technology that stretches from the Greeks is through the computer. In this very different book, Arnold Pacey takes a global view, placing the development of technology squarely in a "world civilization." He portrays the process as a complex dialectic by which inventions borrowed from one culture are adopted to suit another.