I am happy to be hosting a group of colleagues in Bloomington this week for a long-delayed (COVID…) writing workshop on “Textile Arts and Heritage Practices in Southwest China.” This grows out of the work of the “China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project,” a joint project of the China Folklore Society and the American Folklore Society. Specifically, the effort arises from that project’s “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” sub-project (2017-2021), an effort now extended through the “Craft and Heritage in Upland Southwest China” project (2022-present) of the Material Culture and Heritage Studies Research Laboratory. The generous funders and partners for these various projects are discussed in Jackson 2023. This week’s workshop has been supported by the College Arts and Humanities Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study, both at Indiana University. Thank you to all of those who have supported these projects.
There will be a campus event associated with the workshop on Friday, May 19, 2023 at 2:30 pm. Read about it here at this calendar link and in the flyer posted below.
Today I published my final editorial as founding editor ofMuseum Anthropology Review. It may be that Museum Anthropology Review thus concludes with volume 17(1-2), now just published. Perhaps instead it will be revived someday by a new editorial team in partnership with the wonderful folks at the Indiana University Press and the IUScholarWorks Program at the IU Libraries. As of now, the search for a new editor or editorial team can be considered concluded unsuccessfully and the journal is either ceasing or pausing publication. I do not need to write a new version of the editorial here. I invite everyone interested in the journal and the fields that it serves to read it (always open access!) for a contextualized back story.
Here I just want to reiterate my thanks to all who contributed to, supported, and encouraged the journal as a project and who supported me as its editor. I also want to reiterate my thanks to the Indiana University Press for supporting my fields—folklore studies and cultural anthropology, including material culture studies—so well. Even though the journal—by design—was not a money making endeavor, the press stood by it and invested in its improvement and its success. Equal thanks go to the extraordinary IUScholarWorks program (now broadened as Open Scholarship) that helped launch the journal and supported it vigorously for its full run.
I am very pleased to share news of a new publication. It is an article appearing now in the Journal of American Folklore:
Jackson, Jason Baird. “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies: An Initiative of the American Folklore Society and Its Partners in China and the United States.” Journal of American Folklore 136, no. 539 (2023): 48-74. muse.jhu.edu/article/877843.
The paper’s abstract is:
Since 2007, the American Folklore Society has pursued a partnership project with the China Folklore Society. Diverse in activities and extensively participated in, the endeavor is known as the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project. In this peer-reviewed report, one sub-project within this umbrella effort is reviewed. The Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies sub-project continued the project’s established exchange practices and added a program of material culture and heritage studies research.
Thanks to the generous terms of the American Folklore Society’s author agreement, a version of the article is now available in the Indiana University open access repository. Find that version online here: https://iu.tind.io/record/3333
More good news in terms of publication work. I am pleased to share that my article “Kultuuriline omastamine kultuurimuutusena” is now published in Estonian in the wonderful journal Studia Vernacula (see volume 14). This is a translation (minus the case studies) of my earlier paper “On Cultural Appropriation,” which appeared in English in the Journal of Folklore Research (volume 51, number 1 in 2021). Special thanks go to Elo-Hanna Seljamma for work translating the paper, to Kristi Jõeste for inviting me to contribute the paper, and to Madis Arukask for discussing my contribution in an editorial appearing in the new issue. Studia Vernacula is a wonderful open access journal beautifully produced in digital and print form. Even if you do not read Estonian, I urge you check it out with the help of Google Translate or a similar service. So much wonderful material culture studies work appears therein year after year.
I am very happy to note a new co-authored article titled “A Survey of Contemporary Bai Craft Practices in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China.” It was jointly written with Wuerxiya (first author), C. Kurt Dewhurst (third author) and Cuixia Zhang (fourth author) and it appears in Museum Anthropology Review volume 16, numbers 1-2. This is the special double issue published in honor of Daniel C. Swan, as noted in an earlier post on Shreds and Patches. The article is based on work undertaken by a much larger bi-national team within the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” sub-project of the broader “China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project,” a collaboration (2007-present) of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society. In particular, it describes work undertaken through the auspices of, and in partnership with, The Institute of National Culture Research at Dali University. Special thanks go to the Institute and its leadership.
I am very happy to note the publication of “Basketry among Two Peoples of Northern Guangxi, China” in the latest double issue of Asian Ethnology. This article is one that I co-wrote with my friends and collaborators Lijun Zhang (first author), C. Kurt Dewhurst (third author), and Jon Kay (fourth author) and it is based on work undertaken by a much larger bi-national team within the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” sub-project of the broader “China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project,” a collaboration (2007-present) of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society.
I am a huge fan of Asian Ethnology, a wonderful open access journal now in its 81st year. Check out the huge volume that our paper is a part of, Find Asian Ethnology online here: https://asianethnology.org/ and also in JSTOR
I am happy to report that my article “Towards Wider Framings: World-Systems Analysis and Folklore Studies” was published in the Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics earlier this year. Readers will have the judge the article for itself, but I can’t say enough good things about JEF. Its a wonderful open access journal doing wonderful work in, and at the intersection of, my two fields. Thanks to everyone at the Estonian Literary Museum, the Estonian National Museum, and the University of Tartu who work to make the journal a success.
I am very happy to share this guest post by Tim Lloyd.
The American Folklore Society’s annual meeting is the high point of the professional year for the Society and for many of us this is evidenced by the amount of time we spend discussing present and past meetings and by the intensity of some of those discussions. In the hallways, lobbies, and bars near the rooms in which AFS annual meeting sessions happen, and in living rooms, offices, and coffee shops back home, it’s common for folklorists to discuss, interpret, and rate or rank the most recent annual meeting in light of our experience there, and to compare that experience to our recollections of the way things used to be. Each of us rapidly builds a body of such recollections which, as we know, can form the foundation of professional beliefs.
One of the more frequent beliefs that I have heard about AFS annual meetings is customarily expressed in two parts: one, that in recent decades the number of sessions devoted to academic papers has decreased as a proportion of the program; and two, that paper sessions have been replaced on the program by workshops and forums devoted to public folklore, as that part of the field has grown. But is either of these beliefs supported by the data?
Luckily, there is a rich and easily available source of data to which we can turn to support or challenge these professional beliefs: the American Folklore Society collection in the Indiana University ScholarWorks (IUSW) open online institutional repository (https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/9004). The collection is also accessible through the AFS-IU Library online portal Open Folklore at https://openfolklore.org/.
AFS staff and volunteers and Indiana University librarians worked together to create and populate this collection starting in 2009. It contains large back runs of the journals of AFS sections and of AFS newsletters and the more recent AFS Review; a collection of syllabi and teaching resources provided by Society members; reports and other publications from AFS-sponsored professional development consultancies and workshops; AFS annual reports; and indexes to the contents of the Journal of American Folklore from 1889 to 1994.
This means that extensive information about every AFS annual meeting is openly accessible online, offering an important way to track developments in folklore scholarship and public practice—and the timelines along which they first arose, since conference paper and session topics can evidence those trends well before they reach print.
Here is a brief report on a quick survey of just a bit of the annual meeting data contained in this collection.
Wanting to know more about the ways in which the “shape” of AFS annual meetings—as measured by the types of sessions that make up the program—may have changed in recent decades, I reviewed the programs from five sample meetings (the most recent “normal” one in 2019, plus every ten years before that for 40 years: 2009, 1999, 1989 [the second of the Society’s two centennial meetings], and 1979) and counted up the numbers of various kinds of sessions, in six categories:
Workshops or forums on non-public folklore subjects (as defined, on the fly, by me)
Workshops or forums on public folklore subjects (ditto)
Sessions to attend to some matter of AFS business
I’ve shown the numbers—and, more importantly, the percentages of each kind of session on that year’s program—in Figure 1, with the most significant percentage increases from the previous decade’s program shown in green and the most significant decreases in red. My tracking excluded all social events and all events held by non-AFS organizations (like university presses). I also did not include section business meetings in my overall tally, though I did count them separately and have included them on the spreadsheet to note the growth in the number of AFS sections over these decades.
My main takeaways from this quick look?
1. The percentage of paper sessions did decrease by about 22 percentage points during this 40-year period, most notably (I’m assuming for the moment) in the 2000s. (Note: “Paper sessions” includes those on all topics, including a small number—I’d say no more than 10% in any year—of paper sessions on public-folklore topics.)
2. This decrease has been slightly more than offset by increases in the percentage of workshops and forums of all kinds. Contrary to what I understand to be popular belief, since 2000 only a minority of those workshops and forums have covered public folklore subjects; that is, in 2009 and 2019, most of them were devoted to topics outside public folklore.
3. The greatest growth in the public-folklore workshop and forum part of the program, in fact, took place during the 1980s and 1990s. This makes sense, as this was the period when the field’s current public front was undergoing its initial periods of growth and development. (I believe that the first modern-day public folklore forum session at AFS was in Salt Lake City in 1978.) The percentage of these sorts of sessions continued to increase, though at a slower rate, in the 2000s and 2010s.
My smaller takeaways?
4. The percentage of AFS-sponsored or AFS business-related sessions increased most significantly in the 2000s. Having been around (and to some extent responsible) for almost all of those years, I’m not surprised.
5. The numbers suggest that the primary growth era for the AFS section universe was the 1980s.
And two smaller notes: Neither the number of media sessions nor that of plenaries showed much growth or decline during these 40 years. There were also three poster sessions at Boise in 2009, and one diamond session at Baltimore in 2019, but I didn’t include them in the spreadsheet because those numbers didn’t really seem material.
So on the basis of the work described here, it appears clear that over the last 40 years the percentage of the program devoted to sessions of academic papers has significantly decreased. It also appears clear that this decrease has been offset by an increase in the percentage of the program devoted to workshops and forums. But this increase is more complicated than it is widely believed to be, and appears to have two eras: one during the 1980s and 1990s that saw an increase in the number of public-folklore-related workshops and forums, and one that has taken place in the first two decades of the present century that saw an increase in the number of non-public-folklore-related (sorry for this infelicitous name) workshops and forums.
It might be pointed out that these decreases and increases could be attributed to patterns in the selections and choices made by the program committees who review, accept, and reject annual meeting proposals, rather than patterns in what prospective meeting attendees propose in the first place. However, the fact is that for many years the great majority of proposals have been accepted for annual meeting programs, which has the effect of taking those committees’ decisions largely out of this equation.
This is a small project, undertaken quickly with just a few data points from just five years of annual meetings. Please take it in the spirit in which I share it: as indicative rather than definitive. I undertook it because of my curiosity about whether perceptions of changes in the annual meeting over time matched what the programs would tell us, and because I wanted to carry out a small test of the utility of the AFS IUSW annual meeting collection for helping us answer questions about the history of the field.
The data—including abstracts of all AFS annual meeting presentations and sessions for the last several decades—exist in the AFS IUSW collection to support deeper and more extensive research. We could, for example, ask several forms of the “Why?” question about the data I’ve presented here, or examine in greater detail the topics of workshops and forums of all kinds looking for patterns of subject or theme. We could look more closely at the growth or decline over time of particular topics, approaches, sub-fields, or keywords in annual meetings generally. Or we might focus more tightly on every year in a decade to be able to craft a more complete picture of it, perhaps extending it forward, backward, or both (e.g., might there have been a “long 1980s” in folklore studies and if so, what was it and why does it matter?).
Thanks for your attention. I invite your responses and comments, but more emphatically I encourage you to pursue your own investigations using these remarkable, openly accessible online resources.
I have been away from the project for some time, but I have resumed my journey through the programs of the annual meetings of the American Folklore Society. As discussed in my previous posts, my goal is to gain perspective on the relative presence and absences of work on Native North American studies topics within the AFS and by extension, among folklorists in the United States. The data for the first half of the 1990s is shown below. Participation in the meetings for this period is quite similar to that seen for the full decade of the 1980s.
Percentages (of Native North American-related) presentations for the 1980s as a whole was 2%, with a variation ranging between 1% and 4%. For the first half of the 1990s, the five year percentage was 3% with yearly ranges of 2%-5%. This small increase is primarily attributable to three factors that I identify in closing. The 1991 annual meeting in St. John’s was a joint meeting with the Folklore Studies Association of Canada and it seems clear to me that additional presentations by members of that peer-organization made the difference for that year. I do not do not see any specific factors accounting for the 3% in 1992, when AFS met in Jacksonville. As measured by presentation of papers and films, that meeting was large for a non-joint, non-bicentennial meeting. In contrast to 1992, the program for the 1993 meeting in Eugene shows that a very concerted effort was made by organizers to spotlight Native North America-related papers and topics. Seven panels (some were round-tables and thus not reflected in these counts) specifically related to Native North American issues were organized and several Native American individuals appeared on the program, particularly as guests for free-form discussion events. Finally, the 1994 meetings in Milwaukee were held jointly with the Society for Ethnomusicology and it is clear that presentations by ethnomusicologists on Native North American studies topics raised the total for this meeting in a way that was key. (The 1994 meeting was the first that I attended as a member of the AFS and I presented at that this meeting contributing to the N=18 shown below. It was at that meeting that I met my friend and collaborator Victoria Levine, although I knew her writings before then. With so many happy associations with the 1994 meeting, I am happy to pause here with it.)
I will finish the 1990s as soon as I am able.
Presentations on Non-Native American Topics
Presentations on Native American Topics
Percentage on Native American Topics
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society in the First Half of the 1990s (1990-1994)
Less than 100 papers were presented at the American Folklore Society meetings in the decade of 1900-1909. More than 3500 papers and films were presented during the decade of 1980-1989. This huge number does not include forums and other discussion events where named participants were not identified with a titled presentation. That fact means that the programs for the meetings of the 1980s are still larger than the papers + films count suggests. And it is clear that attendance, as in earlier periods, was greater that the count of members and non-members on the program. This pattern will continue in the decades to come in this survey–the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010. What this means practically is that it is now taking me a long time to slog through each program for each year of each decade remaining to survey.
This post is the next in a series examining the presence and absence of Native North American/First Nations topics and scholars within the work of the American Folklore Society across its history since 1888. Anyone finding this post who might want more context can work their way backwards through the series. A partial index to the relevant posts is available here: https://jasonbairdjackson.com/2020/11/02/organizing-the-material-so-far-native-north-american-studies-and-afs/. One post fits in between that overview and this post, a combined treatment of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) and the annual meeting for the decade of 1900-1909. Remaining to be done are the annual meetings for the most recent period in AFS history.
The amazing growth in involvement evoked in the prelude here should encourage anyone interested in the dynamic expansion of the field of folklore studies. Having just finished reading the titles for 3563 conference papers I can testify that the expansion of the society ran alongside an expansion of topical interests being pursued by folklorists. Exploring that in depth is off topic, but the bigger disciplinary picture is there to be seen. In discussing the 1970s I described that decade as the one where AFS got big. The big 1970s were basically doubled in the bigger 1980s. The number of papers and films nearly doubled between the 1980s. With an increase in forums, I think that it is safe to estimate that the 1980s simply doubled the 1970s in meeting participation. In discussing the 1970s, I highlighted the special impact of the bicentennial (1776-1976) of the present-day United States as a key historical factor for that decade. Here in the 1980s, the big story was the centennial of the AFS celebrated in 1988 and 1989. The table shows how those were big years.
All of that is good for an AFS and folklore studies partisan. It is somewhat beside the point for my topic. For the decade, a small overall increase (N=8) in papers related to Native North American/First Nations can be seen when comparing the 1980s (N=85) to the 1970s (N=77). But the great increase in overall participation means that as a percentage of program participation, Native North American studies work falls from 4% to 2% for the decade. Study of the table shows that the variation across the decade is very small, with the percentage ranging from 1% to 4%.
Presentations on Non-Native American Topics
Presentations on Native American Topics
Percentage on Native American Topics
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1980s.
The 1987 meetings were held in Albuquerque, thus close to a number of federally-recognized Native American nations. That fact did not register in a broad way on the program, but there were a noticeable number of presenters who are not regular AFS attendees and there were a several papers dealing specifically with issues relevant to the Pueblo of Zuni. Among the presenters was Calbert Seciwa (Zuni), a Zuni scholar and the Director of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals at Northern Arizona University at the time of his passing in 2009. He had previously served as he served as the Director of the American Indian Institute at Arizona State University from 1989 to 2007. (I am unaware of any other members of Federally recognized Native North American nations or First Nations participating in the annual meetings of the 1980s, but it would be easy for me not to catch some, particularly if they presented on topics outside Native North American/First Nations studies. I welcome information on this point.)
One final note. The overall numbers of presentations on Native North American/First Nations topics would be lower if papers in history of the field were excluded from the totals. The AFS centennial prompted historical research on the field and that led to scholars who are not themselves scholars of Native North American studies taking time to consider figures in the field whose focus was in this field. The paper most relevant to the project in these posts is a paper given by Claire Farrer at the centennial meetings in 1888. Her topic was “Reflections of Ourselves: Native American Folklore Scholarship 1888-1988.”
I am a Ruth N. Halls Professor of Folklore and Anthropology at Indiana University. This site provides information on my museum, teaching, and research work, while also conveying some news and information relating to students and colleagues with whom I work and the projects on which we collaborate.