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Posts from the ‘Folklore Studies’ Category

Article: “Kultuuriline omastamine kultuurimuutusena” in Studia Vernacula 14

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.

Article: “A Survey of Contemporary Bai Craft Practices in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China” in Museum Anthropology Review 16(1-2)

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.

Find the article online at Museum Anthropology Review: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/mar/article/view/34101

In this image is the first page of a journal article as typeset. The article pictured is "A Survey of Contemporary Bai Craft Practices in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China." Visible are the names of the authors, the abstract, the key words and the first paragraph of text.
Presented as an image is the first page of the journal article “A Survey of Contemporary Bai Craft Practices in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China.”

Article: “Basketry among Two Peoples of Northern Guangxi, China” in Asian Ethnology 81(1-2)

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

Find our article here: https://asianethnology.org/articles/2386

Find Jon Kay’s companion article here: https://asianethnology.org/articles/2387

His project is distinct from ours, but find William Nitzky’s article (also) on the Baiku Yao people today here: https://asianethnology.org/articles/2384

This is a image of page one of the published journal article "Basketry among Two Peoples of Northern Guangxi, China. It shows the author's names, the article title, an abstract and the keywords along with the journal's logo, which are a group of line drawn masks from Asian traditions.
A image of page one of the typeset version of the scholarly article “Basketry among Tow Peoples of Northern Guangxi, China” published in Asian Ethnology.

Article: “Towards Wider Framings: World-Systems Analysis and Folklore Studies” in Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics 16(1)

Page one of the article “Towards Wider Framings” as typeset for the Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics.

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.

Find the article in two places online. In Sciendo here: https://sciendo.com/article/10.2478/jef-2022-0002 and in the JEF OJS instance here: https://www.jef.ee/index.php/journal.

Guest Post: On Changes in the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting Program

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.

The first 60 AFS annual meetings, from 1889 to 1948, were reported on—often at length—in the Journal of American Folklore, and all of those annual meeting reports are available in the AFS IUSW collection at https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/13514. In addition, the programs for all AFS annual meetings from the next 70 years, from 1949 to 2019, are available in this collection at https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/13071. Finally, the collection contains more than 70 videos of major AFS annual meeting presentations since 2004 at https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20238

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:

  1. Paper sessions
  2. Workshops or forums on non-public folklore subjects (as defined, on the fly, by me)
  3. Workshops or forums on public folklore subjects (ditto)
  4. Media sessions 
  5. Plenary sessions
  6. 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. 

Figure 1. Data related to five annual AFS meetings staged over the past five decades.

Native North American Studies at the AFS Annual Meetings, 1990-1994

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.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
199036262%
199130183%
1992417133%
1993383205%
1994447184%
Totals1910653%
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)

Native North American Studies at the AFS Annual Meetings of the 1980s

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%.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
198030262%
1981253104%
1982298124%
198332382%
198429462%
198534993%
198638382%
1987379113%
198843751%
1989460102%
Totals3478852%
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.”

Bamboo Basket Hampers Used by Tobacco Farmers in Nanhua County, Yunnan, China

While doing background work on FEI Xiaotong and ZHANG Zhiyi’s studies of the basketry industry(*) in Yunnan, China, my colleague W. discovered this webpage with a pair of images and a little bit of information on the production, sale, and use of large, oval-bottomed, oval-mouthed, open work bamboo tobacco hampers used by tobacco farmers to gather and transport mature tobacco leaves.

I will take down the screenshot below if called upon by the publisher to do so. Hopefully it is ok to share the page in its Google Translate version. The original Chinese text is available on the actual website, which is here: http://www.djcx.com/file_read.aspx?id=31810. The place pictured is Wudingshan town in Nanhua County, which is part of Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, in Yunnan, China. During our team‘s travels in Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi, we have not visited any tobacco producing regions and we have not ourselves documented this basket type, either in museum collections or in town or village settings.

*Fei, Hsiao-tung, and Tse-i Chang. Earthbound China: A Study of Rural Economy in Yunnan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945.

Native North American Studies in the Work of the American Folklore Society during the First Decade of the 20th Century (1900-1909)

This is another post in a series devoted to better understanding the place of Native North American and First Nations studies within the field of folklore studies as represented in the present-day United States by the work of the American Folklore Society (AFS). In a post published here, I itemize the posts in the series so far.

From at least one perspective, 1900-1909 was a kind of high water mark for Native North American work within the American Folklore Society. In the early 20th century, the AFS had a lot of members (in my view), although its leaders constantly stressed the smallness of the membership and stressed the need to grow both members and the number of state and local chapters within which, in those days, most members engaged with the field. There was a relatively small elite of members, both literary and anthropological in orientation, that attended annual meetings and that published substantive articles in the pages of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF). During the 1900-1909 decade, two such elite members were Native North American men–William Jones (Sauk) and Frances La Flesche (Omaha).

Jones was the first Native American to earn a PhD in Anthropology and one of the first to earn this degree at all in the United States. He undertook extensive research among his own people–the Sauk and closely related Meskwaki (Fox)–but also other groups speaking related Central Algonquian languages. He published widely and during his lifetime he published two papers in the JAF. Two additional JAF papers were published posthumously. His first JAF paper is “Episodes in the Culture-Hero Muth of the Sauks and Foxes in JAF #55 (1901). His second paper, “The Algonkin Manitou” appeared in JAF #70 in 1905. He also published reviews in JAF during his lifetime. Sadly, in an episode that has been widely considered in the history of anthropology, he was killed in 1908 while conducting research as a Field Museum curator among the Ilongot people in the Philippines. An unsigned obituary, likely written by his mentor Franz Boas, appears at the end of the decade in JAF #84 (1909). Despite the racism of his day, I do not have any difficulty imagining William Jones having been the President of the American Folklore Society. Many of Boas’ former students, both male and female, came in time to fill this role. Among them Jones was particularly engaged in folk narrative research and he was widely admired. His death remains a vividly felt loss. When I position Jones as an leading member of the AFS in this decade, I include the fact that he was one of a very small number of members to actually present a paper at an annual meeting during this period. He delivered a paper titled “Customs and Rites Concerning the Dean Among the Sauks and Foxes” at the 1901 (13th) annual meeting in Chicago, one of sixteen given at that meeting.

Similarly prominent in this time as a working anthropologist and folklorist, although trained formally in law, is Francis La Flesche. Like Jones, he also undertook ethnographic field work among his own people (the Omaha) and among closely related peoples (the Osage and other peoples speaking Degihan langauges). The JAF volume for 1905 featured Jones’ Manitou paper and, in the next issue, La Flesche’s “Who was the Medicine Man?”. With his research collaborator (and soon-to-be AFS’s first female president) Alice C. Fletcher, he also presented a paper on “Military Insignia of the Omaha” at the 14th Annual Meeting of the AFS, held jointly with the American Anthropological Association and the anthropological section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC at the end of 2002 and the beginning days of 2003. While La Flesche did not become an AFS officer, he clearly could have as reflected in his Presidency of the Anthropological Society of Washington (1922-1923) and his 1922 election to National Academy of Sciences (a high honor then, as now).

A reoccurring theme in these posts, I will address the tiny group of prominent Native North American folklorists in a separate concluding post. Here, I just wish to underline that the 1900s (111 to 120 years ago was the apparent peak moment for such involvement in the society, as represented by the participation in both meetings and the JAF of both Jones and La Flesche during the decade. Ella Deloria (Dakota) would publish in JAF in the 1920s and Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan) would present at the meetings once in that decade, but as measured by total involvement including three full JAF articles published by La Flesche during his career and four full JAF articles published during (and after) his lifetime by Jones, they, and this decade, really stand out. I hope it is clear that I admire them and that I am frustrating that the best moment in terms of Native American scholars being near the center of the field would be in the first decade of the 20th century. As in previous posts when I touched on the question of Native American participation in the society, I welcome information on Native scholars involved in AFS that I many not be recognizing.

During the 1900s decade, meetings remained small and centered mostly in the Northeastern US. It was common, not just for the AFS, but for scholarly societies in general, to systematically meet in what one annual report refers to as a convocation, in which a significant number of scholarly societies are jointly hosted by a university. The AFS met in such situations multiple times in the 1900s decade. Such meetings often included an overarching welcome by the host university president, break-out meetings for the participating societies, and keynote lectures and receptions held again jointly.

It is important to recall that the AFS was founded fourteen years prior to the founding of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Prior to the founding of the AAA, the Anthropological Society of Washington (ASW) (of which La Flesche would eventually be President) and the anthropology section within the AAAS were the key anthropology organizations. AFS met regularly with the ASW and with AAAS throughout its early history and after the AAA formed, it was added to this mix of regular meeting partners. Once the AAA was in the mix, it became common for there to be an AFS focused day within a multi-day meeting. This would have probably been adaptive for the non-anthropologists who may have wished to take in the AFS portion of the meeting but perhaps not the AAA (etc.) parts. I am guessing about this. With respect to the balance between scholars of Native North American and non-Native North American topics–a distinction that in this decade does map rather closely onto the anthropology/literature distinction–Native American-focused presentations at the annual meetings across the decade were somewhat dominant, but as shown in the first table, there was much variability. The most imbalanced meeting, in 1907, was one of those held jointly with the AAA and AAAS. It was held in Chicago (an emerging hub for anthropology due to the Field Museum), a new development that may have made the meeting more difficult for the New England-centric literary folklorists and appealing to the anthropologists who were in this time increasingly fanning out across the country. The meeting in 1904, where only a small number of papers were given and where the Native studies percentage is at its lowest for the decade, was in Philadelphia during one of the joint meetings that included the still new AAA and AAAS. It is likely that AFS members appeared on the AAA’s program in this context, impacting the figures. How AFS papers are reported in the annual report varies year to year in response to different meeting configurations and other factors.

The 1900s decade is when Boas’ students (both formal and informal) begin to show up in growing numbers and assume leadership roles. Jones has been mentioned here and in previous posts. In the previous decade A. L. Kroeber was present as a student, now he is present as an established figure. He is not only a presenter at meetings and a regular JAF author, but he and colleagues begin the California chapter in this time and it becomes a force within the field. In this period, there is often a dedicated section of the journal presenting papers and notes under this California branch’s auspices. Kroeber followed Alice Fletcher as AFS President, serving in 1906. John Swanton, active starting in this decade, would serve as President in 1909. Other Boas students such as Frank Speck, Robert Lowie, and Edward Sapir–all scholars of Native American topics–entered into the life of the AFS and rose to prominence in it, eventually service as Presidents.

As noted previously, the membership size and the number of presentations at AFS annual meetings are very different things. Most members articulated with the society as journal readers and as members of local branches, not via the annual meetings. There continued in this period to be elite AFS participants from both the anthropology community (ex: Alice Fletcher, James Mooney, Franz Boas and others) and the literary and historical side (inclusive of such topics as ballad studies, Black vernacular culture, children’s folklore, etc) (ex: George Lyman Kittredge, Alcée Fortier, Phillips Barry and others) as reflected in meeting attendance and service as an officer of the society. The politics of the AFS seems to have mainly taken place at the annual meetings, thus centering leadership and decision making among a small group (nearly all white, mostly men, weighted towards the northeast, but less exclusively so) able to both attend annual meetings and engage in the work on a national basis. The Annual Meeting table follows.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
190041071%
190161063%
190231077%
19036440%
19043125%
19054233%
19066545%
19071686%
19086545%
19092467%
Totals415758%
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1900s.

As in earlier decades, the JAF picture is distorted by my initial choice (probably a mistaken one) to code notes and articles rather than limiting attention just to full articles. In this period, the JAF often (but not always) published notes that ranged from substantive contributions with a byline to very short items (as short as a couple sentences). As I have noted elsewhere, my inclusion of notes serves to supress the percentages for Native North American topical works, because the smaller notes are weighted towards items related to Non-Native North American folklore topics. I am just guessing, but it seems likely that in the decade of the 1900s, the ratio for sunstantive Native and Non-Native North American content in the journal might have been about 50/50 rather than the decade-based 39% presented in the table below.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
1900211745%
1901321836%
1902451525%
1903431830%
1904181749%
1905171648%
1906301635%
1907241843%
1908161853%
1909161853%
Totals26217139%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American and Native North American-Related Topics During 1900s.

Early volumes of the JAF are available without a paywall from JSTOR, thus I end by suggesting that anyone who has made it this far read the brief obituary published for William Jones in #84. Find it here. It is unsigned but his mentor Franz Boas was the editor of JAF at the time and knew him well, suggesting to me that he is the likely author of the obituary.

In the Beginning: Native North American Studies in the American Folklore Society to 1899

The two most recent posts in this series considered the state of Native North American and First Nations studies within the American Folklore Society (AFS) through the lens of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) for the 1980s and 1990s and then the 2000s and 2010s. While the meetings for those years still need attention, I here jump back to the first years of the society to consider both the annual meetings of the AFS and the JAF from the society’s founding in 1888 to 1899. To preserve the decade by decade approach taken in the series, I will tackle 1888 and 1889 first and then 1890 to 1899. In these early years, meetings were small and they were reported on directly within a comprehensive annual report of the AFS published right in the pagers of the journal, making it very easy to tackle the meetings while surveying the JAF.

Readers of these posts will have noted the two story lines–the story of presence and absence of Native North American folklore studies content within the meetings and journal on the one hand and the presence and (mostly) absence of Native North American scholars present within these two AFS domains. Before getting to the meetings and journal overall, I can note that one Native American scholar, Francis La Flesche of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa, appears prominently in this period, authoring major articles for the JAF in 1889 and in 1890. While a large proportion of the papers appear in JAF during this time period were also presented at the annual meetings, this is not the case for Frances La Flesche. If he attended any AFS meetings in this period, it is not evident from the annual reports. It is important to note that in this period the membership was surprisingly large and attendance at the meetings was not. There were many regional societies and La Flesche could have attended meetings of these at various points. I am unaware of other Native North American JAF authors or annual meeting presenters for these years. I welcome additional information on this point.

Because in this time period, meetings presentations often went quickly into the journal, I will present meeting data first and the JAF data. Founded in 1888, the first AFS meeting happened in 1889.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
188911215%
Total11215%
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1880s.

Here is the meeting data for the 1890s.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
189012737%
189141173%
18927956%
18931019%
189411635%
189581158%
18969431%
189717419%
18987542%
18997542%
Totals926341%
Presentations on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1890s.

Late in the meetings of the 1890s, we see the person whom I think is the first true folklore graduate student enter the scene. If one attends an AFS meeting today, one will encounter a lot of graduate students and many of them will be presenting on the conference program. One might wonder if students always did this. I cannot answer that question here beyond noting that in 1998 and again in 1899, we see precedent in the person of A. L. (Alfred) Kroeber. Then a doctoral student working with Franz Boas at Columbia University, Kroeber presented on Inuit tales in 1898 and on his own studies among the Arapaho in 1899. He earned his PhD at Columbia in 1901, the first granted in anthropology from that university. He would go on to publish many items in JAF over the years and that first paper would be his first published in JAF, a year later in 1899 (#44) Just eight years later, in 1906 (five years past his PhD) he would serve as AFS President.

In later years, the issue of joint meetings and the ways that they would serve different parts of the society more or less well would become an issue. For the initial years, this does not seem to have been an issue. Most meetings seemed to happen independently, but in 1891 the AFS met in Washington in partnership with the Anthropological Society of Washington and the Women’s Anthropological Society. AFS returned to Washington with similar partners in 1894. In 1893, the branch of AFS in Montreal hosted. In 1899 AFS met at Yale at the same time as a large group of scientific societies. As in other early decades of the AFS, meetings were frequently rotated between a small number of cities in the Northeast.

Reporting on the JAF in the early years is difficult because in those days regular papers were published but so were very short notes, questions, and ephemeral observations, including sometimes items noticed in the popular press. I have not carefully studied every item, leaving room for mis-codeing. For most of this period, AFS is in a pre-professional or proto-professional state, with some professionals (like Boas) holding advanced degrees and some not doing so. Some folklorists were professionals in other fields, such as medicine. There is variability that would diminish after 1900. The anthropologists/literature scholar division is present in a more nebulous form and the interests of the early 20th century are all present, with an anthropological approach underpinning the extensive amount of work on Native American topics being addressed, with missionaries and travelers reporting on other parts of the world, and literary-minded scholars and antiquarians mainly working on the traditions of other peoples within the present-day United States. The anthropological scholars did also do work on non-Native cultural traditions, as when James Mooney published on the European settlers of Western North Carolina as an adjunct to his work among the Cherokee there. The numbers below reflect the presence of all of those small items in the journal. Such small bits tended to relate to non-Native peoples more than Native ones and Native studies work tended to appear in more fully formed papers.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
1888243156%
1889474045%
Totals717150%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American and Native North American-Related Topics During 1880s.

The 1890s for JAF follow.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
1890502231%
1891492231%
1892542128%
1893461828%
1894421019%
1895451120%
1896321126%
1897331125%
189832922%
189953915%
Totals43614425%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American and Native North American-Related Topics During 1890s.
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