From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

From the Geil Archive (23)—Geil, An Intellectual Bricoleur

Click here for the "From the Geil Archive" Resource Center

[a] A sense of Geil's personal papers DHS

Click here for other posts written by Guest Contributor Amara Pugens:
1-About Me                                      2-Unlike the Others                      3-One of Earth's Travelers       
4-Don't Call Me Reverend               5-Intellectual Bricoleur

Today's Guest Contributor on Round and Square is Amara Pugens. Amara is from Brookfield, Wisconsin, and recently  graduated from Beloit College with a B.A. in history and anthropology and a minor in museum studies. She is currently working with four other Beloit College graduates to digitize, process, and research the William Edgar Geil Collection at the Doylestown Historical Society in Pennsylvania.
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Please note that all items marked "DHS" are property of the Doylestown Historical Society, and used with DHS permission. If you wish to use an image, you need permission of the Society. Please contact Robert LaFleur (, and he will put you in contact with the appropriate people.

Now over a month into this project at the Doylestown Historical Society, I have a sense of Geil's personal papers--the mathers and items he chose to collect. And trust me when I say there is a lot--he collected and preserved enough material to fill three large cabinets with four drawers each. At first glance, Geil could be described as a hoarder, but you, Round and Square readers, know better. Geil wasn't a hoarder, but a type of bricoleur.
[b] Drawer One DHS

As readers of Professor LaFleur's blog, you are aware of the concept of bricoleur (and in case you don't know or don't remember, click here for the introductory post "Bricolage and the Bricoleur"). Because bricolage is quite similiar to hoarding, it also can be positive or negative. A bricoleur could think everything has purpose and therefore keep everything--the negative; or he could know the basics and kept the essentials--the positive. For example, a positive bricoleur would keep a fabric bandage for any future injuries. A negative bricoleur, however, would keep the empty bandage box as a reference. In this sense of the idea, Geil is a positive bricoleur. Although he does not collect items--a great achivement for a turn-of-the-century explorer, he did collect data and kept them all throughout his life. Over time, the concept evolved to a mindset.

While his wife Constance was the one to protect the papers after his death, Geil made sure he preserved his documents by keeping them all together. He held on to all his papers and photographs, even after the publication of his books; he was practicing a type of intellectual bricolage.

As Geil acquired ideas and images of communities and societies around the world, he developed a repertoire of information--recording his thoughts and observations in the form of handwritten notes. This kind of research became the basis for his works. After using these notes, however, he kept the original documents. While some would dispose of the used notes, Geil filed them away, even keeping the notes he did not use in his publications.
[c] "For 5 years..." DHS

While this idea of keeping originals may seem obvious, it is not always instinctual for a traveler or explorer--especially at the turn of the twentieth century. French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss used bricolage to explain mythical thought, a concept where a person re-uses available material to solve new problems. Geil perhaps believed that while unimportant for his books or lectures, his unused documents might hold significance in a different study. He used an entire sheet of paper to write down his personal reasons, thoughts and feelings for collecting and keeping his work:

        For 5 years, I have piled up book material until it is high
        The eye of a single man will miss much - but what I have been at
        work recording for may days I have not the heart to throw away +
        have gathered it up until now it is piled into a heap. At least it will
        be useful to light a fire -

Hopefully only joking about burning his papers, this message shows Geil's bricolage mindset in organizing and piling materials together. In fact, he would have needed to think like a bricoleur in order to organize it at all. How he documented, organized and preserved his research shows his handyman nature.
[d] Junk Drawer RF

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