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Peace, War, Folklore: Themester + #AFS11

Soon a large group of folklorists, from the U.S. and from many countries, will be visiting my adopted home town of Bloomington, Indiana. The 2011 American Folklore Society meetings are returning to Indiana University for the first time since 1968. There is much history that could be recounted, but it seems very salient that 1968 is a year famous for its protests and revolutions. 2011 is shaping up as a revolutionary year as well. This convergence relates to the conference theme (which was chosen well over a year ago)–Peace, War, Folklore.

How did the conference planners come to select this theme? Its a timely one and, as the program it prompted shows, a fruitful one. The immediate inspiration came from a desire to tie in to a semester-long program at Indiana University (organized by the College of Arts and Sciences) called Themester. As the name suggests, a themester is a semester theme that provides a basis for campus-wide activities, courses, and programs. At IU the Themesters happen during fall semesters. The theme for 2011 is Making War, Making Peace.

It is exciting that the AFS meetings can stand out as one of the big Themester events for 2011. The Themester program maintains a blog and the two most recent posts are by members of the AFS planning committee. In his post, conference chair Michael Dylan Foster explains the conference theme in light of folkloristics on the one hand and Themester on the other. In a second post, Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and a member of the conference committee describes a TAI-organized, Themester-supported exhibition on the art of Gustav Potthoff, a man who paints to preserve and convey personal memories of the horrors of war and the prisoner-of-war experience based on his internment during World War II, during which he was among those forced to build the notorious “bridge over the River Kwai.”

To learn more about Themester at IU, see the program website. Thanks go to the Themester leadership for its engagement with the 2011 AFS meetings. (Public conference events relating to the Themester are listed here.)

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