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The 1960s from the Perspective of the Journal of American Folklore

Here again is a post from my series considering the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations studies work within the intellectual life of the field of folklore studies as represented in the United States by the American Folklore Society (AFS). This account of the 1960s focuses on work published in the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) in that decade. It is a companion to the fourth post in the series (on Native American and First Nations studies at the AFS annual meetings of the 1960s) and it extends the preceding post on JAF in the 1950s. The decade being considered here, as noted in the third post, began with the birth of the AFS Fellows in 1960.

For JAF in the 1960s, there really is not anything new to say that has not already been said. William Fenton published his presidential address (on Haudenosaunee cosmology,) already mentioned, in 1962. There are odds and ends but the field and the journal was growing decreasingly relevant to scholars of Native North America as both cultural anthropology and folklore studies diversified in terms of interest and as folklore studies began to shift more quickly away from the anthropology/literature binary towards something more muddled and complicated. A careful scholar of Native American studies who was tracking down works of significance for their own projects would need to go and retrieve X or Y article from JAF, but I think it is safe to say that, by the 1960s, it is not essential reading for such a scholar and also that it was no longer essential reading for cultural anthropologists in general, even as key scholars in the field continued to publish significant works in its pages. In a way, these trends can be seen as generic across post-WWII scholarly activity, reflecting the dramatic growth and diversification of scholarship in Anglophone North America–more journals, more topics, more specialization…

Study of the right column in the table shows that the situation in the second half of the decade was worse than at the start and that the initial years are thus propping up the later ones. Especially when it comes to journal publication, content moves slowly through the pipeline and disciplines do not turn on dimes. Scholarly habits and loyalties change slowly, but the 1960s really mark the end of an old order and the start of a new one. I see Fenton’s presidency and address as one of the last key moments of the older era and the 1968 AFS meetings as a dramatic start to the new era. Paradoxically, Dell Hymes is the figure who both embodies a continuity from, and a transformation of, the era that functionally ends in the 1960s.

Once again, it is my sad task to report that none of the authors of the seventeen articles and notes related, I deem, to Native North American or First Nations studies in the JAF numbers of the 1960s are known to me to have been citizens of Native North American nations. Please correct me if you know me to be in error. I can say that the 1970s brings one happy story on this front. Stay tuned.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1960s.
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