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The Zoot Suit Kid Goes Global: From Tango to Hip Hop

The Indiana University Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology has recently announced the 1st Annual Richard M. Dorson Memorial Lecture with Dr. Roger Abrahams.

“The Zoot Suit Kid Goes Global: From Tango to Hip Hop”

Tuesday, April 5th
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Wells House, 1321 E. 10th St.

The lecture series is named for Richard M. Dorson, who is credited with establishing folklore studies as an academic discipline in the United States through his many years directing the IU Folklore Institute, beginning in 1956. He later chaired the Folklore Department, until his death in 1981. For these efforts, he has been called the “father of American Folklore.”

In this lecture, Roger Abrahams brings into focus the development throughout the post-emancipation era of high-flash street-corner groups that have emerged in virtually every port of call in the commercial Atlantic world. Abrahams argues that there is a pattern linking these manifestations, though they are commonly regarded as being unique to one metropolitan area or another. Each has founding legends, stories of the great song-makers, dancers, stick-fighters, and so on. This research tests the argument between those who have argued for the retention of African cultural traits and those who have argued for culture-loss under enslavement conditions. The West Indian performers with whom Abrahams has worked maintain that their repertoires are played not only for enjoyment but more importantly, as embodiments of the history and the strength of ties within the community. The burden of the argument, at last, is that doing folklore involves both extensive live-there field work and comparative study to situate what it is that you have collected.

Roger D. Abrahams is a prominent folklorist whose work focuses on the expressive cultures and cultural histories of the Americas, with a specific emphasis on African American peoples and traditions. He is the Hum Rosen Professor of Humanities, Emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania where he taught in the Department of Folklore and Folklife. He is the author of a large number of books, among which Everyday Life: A Poetics of Vernacular Practices is a recent title.

A light reception will follow Dr. Abrahams lecture.

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