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Academic Sources on forging and cultural (mythical?) traditions

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Zero_Time, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Zero_Time


    Dec 28, 2006
    Hey all. Hope this doesn't get buried. So, I've been stuck in academic hell for a while, and my last act that is necessary is to write a big academic paper. So, I need the bladeforums hivemind to help!

    I'm writing a paper about the cultural traditions around forging and bladesmithing, and would like to compare 2 cultures. It's got to be an anthropological/cultural focus, so just writing about chromium content and the materials science has to be incidental and not primary. Thus, it has to be around cultures with a strong reverence/tradition not just in the usage of swords/blades, but of the bladesmiths.

    For obvious reasons, I've chosen Japan as one of the cultures. I'm still undecided on who to compare it to- I've gotten a strong push from my adviser, an expert in Southeast asia art (not including weapons), to do the Javanese/Indonesian kris/keris, and was supposed to talk to a longtime expert in the field. Unfortunately, this guy hasn't gotten back to me, and I refuse to be at the mercy of someone else to escape this blackhole I've been in. So, I would love suggestions (only if you can back it up with good academic sources though!) on a culture to draw a comparison with. Japan and Java were going to be a good match up because of the elaborate differential hardening and laminating that both cultures engaged in; and the fact that today both nations regard their bladesmiths with reverence.

    At any rate, I appreciate the help guys. I'm assuming this is going to be a ~40 page paper, so I need to have LOTS and LOTS of sources (or a few excellent, top quality sources) and things to say. I would love to compare to European sword traditions, but most sources will be far from me, so I'll need to know quickly so I can get those sent to the university I'm working out of. So please, if you know some good sources/cultures to look at, please, please, help me out! If it sweetens the pot, I'm strongly considering a giveaway after I finish this last bit of academic torture in December.

    Anyway, thanks all. Keep 'em sharp. My mind is getting blunt from all this research.

  2. Emanuel

    Emanuel BOUNCED EMAIL: I need to update my email address in my profile!

    Dec 14, 2001
    Wow, tough paper, but interesting. It's always a struggle finding sources of info, especially ones that you can reference and are authoritative. If your question is only which two cultures to choose, that's easy. In an academic setting ALWAYS follow what your advisor says, both in terms of his suggestions and his political opinions/leanings (if that's an issue). Your interest is to pass the paper.

    If your advisor is pushing you to go down the Java/Kris path, then I can only strongly advise you to take it. It's not a bad idea, especially considering you've, smartly, chosen Japan as the other culture. I see a big similarity between the two. BOTH the Japanese Samurai with their Katana and the Javanese warriors with their Kris blades used to apply a near religious/spiritual devotion and power to their blades. They also used to pass down the blades through the generations where they became more than just effective weapons; they became family treasures. The closest that I've seen so far can be seen by the Maori (indigenous people of New Zealand) with a particular weapon called a Mere (specifically when it was made out of puonamu--aka Jade), but that's not a blade type weapon.

    I hope you find the sources you're after. Sorry, this isn't my area of expertise.

    Best of luck!
  3. slight


    May 22, 2011
    You may be able to use an interview from some of the members, but I find most of my sources on my colleges library Internet database. I have been surprised at the amount of articles, journals, and essays ecu has saved up.
  4. Emanuel

    Emanuel BOUNCED EMAIL: I need to update my email address in my profile!

    Dec 14, 2001

    You'll need info on Kami:

    (BTW, from wiki be careful not to just copy and paste the reference as they are usually in incorrect APA format, and always follow up the references at the bottom on your own---wiki can be unreliable if not careful)



    (THE most important historical/religious story in Japan is the story of Amateratsu. From here you see the importance the Japanese place on spirits(Kami residing in all objects, not least of all swords).

    This shrine houses significant artefacts and it talks about kami:

    Japanese swordsmithing:

    Japanese mythology:

    "Susanoo possessed Totsuka-no-Tsurugi, a sword his father used to tear the body of his brother Kagu-Tsuchi, as his weapon."

    Japan's greatest swordsmith:
  5. Emanuel

    Emanuel BOUNCED EMAIL: I need to update my email address in my profile!

    Dec 14, 2001
    Yup, that.

    Also check out google scholar for academic resources.
  6. Zero_Time


    Dec 28, 2006
    I have around ~30 articles, and 5 books that I need to leaf through in other tabs on my computer (unfortunately, most probably are only good for small, small portions). And I've got a few backup sources in case I need to back off the specific thesis of forging and smithing that I want to hit. I'm a firm believer in talking to everyone you possibly can to help you out, and then assuming the worst and pulling 8 hour days of EBSCO, JSTOR, Google Scholar, WorldCat, etc. while driving around between libraries, universities, and ILLing things. I'm just hoping for an easier way, because 8 hours of research is both draining and unfulfilling.

    Like I said: I'm just interested in getting out of this academic blackhole. I wanted something I could be passionate about so the 40 pages wouldn't her horrible, but I just want done. So that's a big motivator. I'd love to get a few people to interview, but since this is more anthropological and about cultures and bladesmiths, it's not quite as easy as talking to Iaido practitioners about martial traditions. Unless this idea doesn't pan out, and I just write the same paper everyone has written, but being careful to not be Fareed Zakaria. As for the advisor: he lived with former headhunters, and brings any conversation around to SE Asia anytime he can. I told a friend who had him for some classes and he just laughed, and we both joked about it being characteristic behavior. At this point, I just want:
    1. A paper that won't be COMPLETE torture to write, and related,
    2. A paper that isn't impossible to find sources for

    Great suggestions, I'll follow them up. Everyone else, keep 'em coming. I don't want to spam all the subforums, but if you guys know any ridiculously knowledgeable experts somewhere, please, see if they'd help out a fellow forumite.

    Thanks again,

  7. zuluninja

    zuluninja boricua grinder Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 25, 2009
    Interesting. I was just submerged in an article about the region of Albacete in Spain. Spain has a very strong blade tradition, and as their empire grew out to the americas their blade culture spread throughout pretty much all of latin america. If you can translate or somebody you know, this place http://museo-mca.com/1_esp/portada/portadaesp.asp is pretty awesome, regarding the knife museum in Albacete. The region of Toledo is another with worldwide reputation.
  8. HoosierQ


    Feb 9, 2010
    I think that, as you said, Japan is clearly one of your cultures...hands down. It seems that your second choice can be various.

    There's the whole Nepal Khukuri (or Kukri) thing. Today they use old leaf springs so that may not be so interesting but traditionally they must have worked from ore.

    There's the Finninsh tradition and their Puukko...almost as important to their culture as the Samurai sword is to the Japanese.

    Sweden has a tremendous culture but there you may be looking at "re-enactors".

    USA. The early pre-revolution colonies produced an enormous amount of iron and steel. Exported it back to Europe. We tend to think of the first colonists as a bunch of deer hunters running around in the woods doing woodcraft. They actually came here to make money. Cod fishing, yes deer hunting for the hides (thus the term "buck" for money) and...Iron smelting.

    Good luck...fascinating project.

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