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Posts from the ‘Folklore Studies’ Category

The 1930s from the Perspective of the Journal of American Folklore

This is the sixth post in the series looking at the presence and absence of Native North American and First Nations scholars and scholarship from the work and life of the American Folklore Society (AFS). To get a recent recap of the series, look at the start of the post preceding this one.

If the annual meetings of the 1930s presented a picture of anthropological hegemony within the American Folklore Society, the published issues of the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) present a somewhat less stark picture. As the focus of this series is on the presence and absence of Native (North) American and First Nations studies within the work of the AFS as a community of scholars, the notes and articles published within the JAF, as the journal of the AFS, present a more harmonious picture with studies of diverse peoples of the Americas and of the wider world appearing in its pages. JAF also represents a less-skewed disciplinary balance between anthropological folklorists (working not only in Native North American but around the world and with other non-Native peoples of North America) and of non-anthropological (primarily literary) folklorists

As the question of Native American and First Nations scholars active within the American Folklore Society community is not disconnected from the openness of the society to BIPOC scholars in general, I note that the 1930s is the decade in which Zora Hurston published her two JAF papers. (“Dance Songs and Tales from the Bahamas” in 1930 and “Hoodoo in America in 1931”. (Writing from Honduras in 1947, she would later publish one of the most awesomely vehement negative reviews that I have ever read. You should go find it in JAF #238).

As noted previously, Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan) published two articles in JAF, the first appearing in 1932 (“Notes on the Origins and Uses of Plants of the Lake St. John Montagnais”) and a second one to appear later, in 1941.

I am going to share the raw counts for JAF publications dealing with non-Native and Native topics, but a few points should be kept in mind. This count combines shorter notes with full articles. I do not think that the two genres were used equally across these two areas of interests, which skews the overall count in a way that increases the proportion of non-Native North American content. The counts also do not take into account page counts. During this period, articles could be very brief or they could be huge text collections that occupy full numbers. Thus an assessment by page count might lead to very different results. While the Boasian scholars (in this period still working under Boas’ leadership) used the JAF in this way actively, text collections for varied peoples produced by scholars with different orientations did so also. More likely imballanced though in this period (and earlier) was the publication of full theses as articles in JAF. This is another kind of long-form work that impacted distribution of topics vis-a-vis page counts. Anthropological folklorists in the Boasian circle were more likely to see their theses and dissertations published in this way. This is no small matter, as in this era, publication of the dissertation was a requirement for the bestowal of the degree. The rise later of University Microfilms as a means of publication aimed to solve the problem that scholars of this earlier era faced around dissertation publication. Boas and his students used JAF towards this end in cases where the topics could make sense within its pages within an anthropological definition of folklore studies.

YearPublished Papers and Notes on Non-Native American TopicsPublished Papers and Notes on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
193012529%
193118728%
19326440%
193314526%
19342614%
193515421%
19369640%
19373350%
193814318%
193914422%
Totals1314224%
JAF Publications on Non-Native North American- and Native North American-Related Topics at During the 1930s

To illustrate the way that page counts rather than presence/absence can offer a richer view, consider 1934, as presented above. This could seems like a bad year for a partisan whose interests were solely in anthropological folklore studies work related to Native North America. But the single item shown there, accounting for the 4% figure, is Diamond Jenness’ “Myths of the Carrier Indians of British Columbia” in JAF #184-185. At 160 pages, it represents 40% of the total pages published in JAF in 1934.

What is the take away? Native North American and First Nations studies was a vital part of the work of the American Folklore Society during the 1930s. The previous post suggested that the topic was a dominant factor when it came to AFS meetings and this one shows that the area of concern was prominent, but not hegemonic from the perspective of the society’s journal during this decade.

A very large group of scholars published on Native North American and First Nations topics in JAF during the 1930s. At least one of them–Gladys Tantaquidgeon–was member of a Native North American society that had then, or would later have, government-to-government relations with the United States. If readers know of other Native North American scholars present in JAF during the 1930s, please point this out to me.

Native American and First Nations Studies at the American Folklore Society Meetings During the 1930s

This is a fifth post in a series on the presence and absence of Native American and First Nations studies within the life of the American Folklore Society (AFS). So far, the series is as follows.

First, a post considered the presence and absence of Native American and First Nations studies within the AFS conference programs of the 1950s.

Second, I moved back a to the AFS conference reports for the 1940s.

Third, I considered the distribution of interest and work among the original group of AFS Fellows at the moment of the Fellows beginning in 1960, a moment that represented a kind of capstone for the state of things at the end of the 1950s.

Fourth, I moved forward to consider the annual meetings of the 1960s.

In this post, I go back and consider the 1930s. In the post on the 1940s, I noted how that decade began with a report and recommendations aimed at re-balancing emphasis between literary and anthropological folklorists in a situation in which the AFS had, the report suggested, marginalized literary folklorists and become dominated by anthropological ones. Looking at the 1930s helps make this clearer while also speaking to the focus of this series on the place of Native American and First Nations studies within the society.

In the first, second, and fourth posts, I presented a table showing the numbers of conference papers devoted to Native North American and non-Native North American topics. That is not really possible for the 1930s for reasons that are related to the resolution to change AFS processes reported on in 1940. It would be possible to study the conference programs and archival materials related to the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and the AFS to sort out the details at issue, but the annual reports of the AFS do not alone provide all of the information that would be required.

As implied in the 1940 report, the meetings of the AFS seem to mainly have happened on the sidelines of the meetings of the AAA. While the AFS reports are full of rich details on budgets and (extensive) publication activities and while they contain much that is of human interest, including the birth of the Hoosier Folklore Society, the death of specific members, and the strains caused by the Great Depression and the war in Europe, they usually do not present an AFS meeting program in the way that was true for the reports of the 1940s. Readers of the 1936 AFS report were, for example, sent to the pages of the American Anthropologist where they could find a listing of the AAA conference program, with the AFS report treating that AAA program as equal to the AFS one. There were leading non-anthropological folklorists (Archer Taylor, Stith Thompson, Aurelio Espinosa, etc.) involved actively in this period, including as officers. It is easy to see where this dynamic, unfolding in the final decade of Franz Boas’ life, would have been, to a greater or lesser degree, irritating to them.

In this period, it is particularly clear that AFS membership, JAF authors and readers, and AFS meeting attendees represented quite different communities. The AFS in this period had a membership in the lower hundreds and a very active publishing program that included both the Journal of American Folklore and many monographs. A all-star cast was involved in a large range of leadership roles. There were key roles filled by the leading literary folklorists of this era, but they were outnumbered by Boasian anthropologists for whom the AFS was a key node in a larger network of organizations. Even if I had fuller information on papers presenting, the information that I have would have been hard to parse because the main differences that show up in the 1940s and 1950s are not as relevant here. Because of anthropology-centrism, AFS meetings, such as they were, might parse more easily into anthropological folklore work with Native North American peoples and anthropological folklore work with other non-European peoples of the world. The journal will surely show the presence of the literary folklorists concerned with other peoples of the United States and Canada (and the world, especially Europe)–the business of the society shows their importance–but the AAA-meeting-centrism problem makes the meeting program-as-data a different kind of thing.

For my inquiry, the following points can be made about the meetings of the 1930s. A scholar interested in Native American expressive culture would have found plenty of (non-Native) scholars of the topic to talk to at an AFS (business) meeting. With the exception of Stith Thompson, they would be anthropologists and they would be numerous and they would be European and European American settlers.

Ella Delora (Yankton Dakota) published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1929 and I took up study of the 1930 AFS reports hoping to find evidence of her attending meetings in the 1930s. She very well may have attended AFS meetings in this time, but I did not see her named (even though many of her close associates within anthropology are named) in the reports for the decade. She published in the International Journal of American Linguistics (with Boas) in 1933, and in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society in 1944, and again in the International Journal of American Linguistics in 1954. I note this to suggest that she COULD have published again in JAF during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. I certainly wish that she had and I wish that there was more easy-to-access data to suggest that she attended AFS meetings. That is a mater for deeper study than is underpinning these blog posts.

As with Ella Deloria’s paper in 1929, study of the pages of JAF for each of the decades will complexify the picture provided by the meetings. Gladys Tantaquidgeon (Mohegan), for instance, published in JAF in 1932 and again in 1941. Full consideration of this matter will have to wait, but it is foreshadowed here. Anthropological folklorists who were members of Native American Nations that were, or would become Federally recognized, were part of the community of folklorists in the first half of the 20th century. When the time comes, the story of William Jones (Sauk) will push this story back to the turn of the 20th century. The presence and then the absence of Native Americans individuals who were (anthropological) folklorists is the fundamental tragedy of the story that I am working out bit by bit in these posts.

(Note: I should have been clear in my earlier posts that I was limiting inclusion to the Indigenous peoples of the colonized United States and Canada when parsing earlier meeting programs. Thus the occasional paper presented on Indigenous peoples in so-called Latin America were categorized, artificially for sure, with those dealing with Non-Native American peoples. This mechanical step was only done to allow for a focus on scholarship related to Indigenous peoples in the settler states of Canada and the United States. My reasoning for this relates to the underlying purpose of this series, which is to sort out what happened to both Native North American studies and Native North American folklorists within the AFS and the field. The presence of Native American and Indigenous scholars and scholarship on a hemispheric basis is a very important consideration and deserves careful study.)

Native American and First Nations Studies at the American Folklore Society Meetings During the 1960s

In a fourth series post on the presence and absence of Native American and First Nations studies within the life of the American Folklore Society, I pick up with the meetings of the 1960s. The first post focused meeting presentations during the 1950s. The second post focused on meeting presentations during the 1940s. The third post considered the founding cohort of AFS Fellows and their relative placement among anthropological and literary folklore studies and their relationships to Native American studies.

For AFS members of my own generation, the 1960s is the period in which the present state of the society and of the field as it has been practiced in recent decades in present-day “North America” starts to look familiar. After discussing my narrower by primary interest in the presence and absence of Native American and First Nations work, I will make some general comments arising from study of the conference programs of the 1960s.

I can get the reoccurring observation out of the way at the start. None of the ten (out of 397) presenters sharing studies related to Native North America at the meetings of the 1960s are known to me to have been citizens of Native American or Canadian First Nations. If you know me to be wrong about this, please let me know. (Joann Kealiinohomoku [née Wheeler] is among the presenters in this group of ten, but my understanding is that the [Hawaiian] last name by which she was widely known was a married name.)

Relative to the main topic, I make some observations sequentially and then in a more summary mode. The decade began not only with the start of the Fellows of the American Folklore Society, as noted previously, but with the presidency of William N. Fenton. At the 1960 meeting, there were nineteen regular papers, all on topics outside of Native American studies. The exception was Fenton’s presidential address, which considered Haudenosaunee cosmology and that was published in the Journal of American Folklore (JAF) afterwards. The key thing is that, while he continued to be active as a scholar for many decades to come, he does not again appear on the meeting programs of the 1960s. It is my impression that, like fellow President Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin, he shifted his attention to the American Society for Ethnohistory meetings. (I met him once at the 1993 ASE meetings in Bloomington.)

Gertrude Kurath, who was a regular presenter on Native American-related topics in the 1950s returned to the program in 1963 and two key figures who would remain associated with folklore studies, inclusive of Native American studies, appear for the first time on the programs of the 1960s. Dell Hymes presented once on Native American narrative in 1965 and once on the contributions of folklore studies to sociolinguistics in 1969. Both of these presentations went on to become widely discussed publications. Also emerging in the 1960s is Barre Toelken, who presented variously on non-Native topics and who gave a paper related to Navajo narrative in 1967–the only paper on a Native North American studies topic (out of 57) at that transformational meeting. A fourth leading figure in this cluster is Alan Dundes, who presented one Native North America-related paper in 1964.

There continued to be scholars at the meetings of the 1960s whose work, outside their program participation, sometimes touched on Native American studies topics and who clearly kept up with the field in a general way. Examples include Fred Kniffen, Richard Bauman, and Weston LaBarre.

A noteworthy story for this investigation is the case of (very anthropological) Melvile Jacobs and the 1964 meeting in New York. His presidential address is listed on the program without a title. I could not remember the specifics of it and I looked it up in JAF, presuming that he would have incorporated some of his ethnographic work within it. While he devoted a great proportion of his career to Native North American studies, his presidential paper (unlike Fenton’s) does not touch on this. It is a theoretical assessment of verbal art studies in general, inclusive of, but not limited to, those of folklorists. It will not venture a summary of it, but I think that it can be characterized as quite critical of the field and very anthropological in orientation. It feels like a another key marker in a story of transition to something else. It feels like the end of an era in a way that I cannot put my finger on.

Almost every history of the discipline as practiced in the present-day United States locates key shifts–intellectual and organizational–in the 1960s. I think that that reading is true in general. As related to Native American studies, the 1960s represents a special case. As a concern of members-at-large as represented on meeting programs (and I think also in general) Native American studies topics continued to wane. The 1960s show explosive growth in program participation (concurrent sessions were born in Toronto in 1967), but this sector continues its decline, both proportionally and in terms of total papers. I will leave the Native American and First Nations studies story there, but below the table, I touch on some of the general trends revealed in the programs. These general trends shape the specific ones that I have just noted.

YearPresentations on Non-Native American TopicsPresentations on Native American TopicsPercentage on Native American Topics
19601915%
19612100%
19621500%
1963 (Emancipation Centennial)2714%
1963 Special Summer Meeting at Utah State (The West)2129%
19643126%
1964 Special Spring Meeting at Duke 3100%
19652129%
19663800%
19675712%
19684612%
19697000%
Totals397102%
Presentations on Non-Native American- and Native American-Related Topics at the Annual Meetings of the American Folklore Society During the 1960s

The preserved program available in IUScholarWorks show two bonus meetings during the 1960s, one held in the spring at Duke University in 1964 and one held at Utah State University in the summer of 1963. Those two meetings were large by the standards of the 1950s and early 1960s and they were a prelude to the growth that becomes obvious in the second half of the 1960s. As noted above, this is when the concurrent panel era opened up. There were two concurrent sessions for most of the meetings of 1967 (Toronto) and 1968 (Bloomington) and 1969 (Atlanta) saw the move to three concurrent sessions.

The 1960s saw other developments. Thematic panels focused on material culture (not just individual papers) become normal in the 1960s. Panel discussions also become common in this decade. (Where panelists had a set title for their assigned discussion topic, I treated these as papers. When a group of names were gathered together under an theme, but without a specific assignment, I did not count them in the totals above.) Students-as-students appear in the 1960s in panels concerned with student topics, although it is clear that students presented classic papers at an earlier point. Perhaps this was not just an outgrowth of the growth of folklore graduate programs but of the student movements of the later 1960s.

For anyone involved in AFS now, the 1960s programs produce a host of debuts for people central to the field in recent decades. For example, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Richard Bauman, Michael Owen Jones, and Henry Glassie are among those who begin appearing in the 1960s. Others, such as Américo Paredes, move from presence in the 1950s to prominence in this decade.

The old AAA/MLA dynamic seems to fully disappear in this decade, although, as today, clearly there were AAA and MLA attendees among those also gathering at AFS meetings. In is place is the stronger and growing presence of people trained in folklore programs who lacked an identities as something other than as a folklorist. The programs of the 1960s are also full of people with complicated and plural professional identities to be sure, but increasingly these diversities were being shaped by complex alignments with fields and interdisciplinary areas such as history, geography, American Studies, sociolinguistics, and semiotics and they were not a clean inheritance of the literature/anthropology binary of the founding decades. In the later 1960s, the AFS meetings (from my point of view) got a lot more interesting but at the same time, and for interconnected reasons, they got a lot less relevant for those whose studies were concerned with the Indigenous societies of the colonized U.S. and Canada.

For the broader issue of actual involvement in the field by Native American and First Nations scholars, the 1960s continued the dismal record already underway in the 1940s and 1950s. As Native American studies went from small to smaller as an AFS concern, the prospects of attracting the interests of those Indigenous scholars in the humanities and social sciences who would, or could have, become folklore scholars and public humanists in the 1970s also shrank.

Emerging folklore studies stars such as Dell Hymes and Barre Toelken may have done particularly prominent work in Native American studies and, in doing so, kept the concern within the canon, but there was no longer a critical mass of scholars involved in such work. I will be considering this lack of critical mass–and its effects–in later posts. Here it is enough to reflect that an AFS meeting in the 1960s, while more lively than one of the 1940s or 1950s, was not likely to offer much to an Indigenous scholar eager to connect with at least some other scholars (Native or not) also working in Native American studies.

3-2-1 Launch! Material Culture and Heritage Studies Laboratory

The pandemic slows all work beyond bare necessity, but good things can happen amid the difficulties of the present. Over the summer, with a small but mighty crew and some generous grants-in-hand, I did what the sailors call a shakedown cruise for the new Material Culture and Heritage Studies Laboratory that I founded at summer’s start. With great helpers, it was fun to return to research that had been set aside in 2012 when my MMWC era began. I am thankful for those organizations investing in this new work and for those colleagues and friends encouraging and participating in it. Last Friday the lab’s website launched bringing the quiet phase to an end. Check out the new website here: https://mchslab.folklore.indiana.edu/index.html  

A screenshot from the MSHSL website. The image is of Tongle as viewed across a rice paddy from Zhiacong Village in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Thanks to all who have helped!

Sowei Mask Repairs in Focus: Material Interpretation and Object Itineraries (Lecture)

2020-05-14 Otto Lecture

Sowei Mask Repairs in Focus: Material Interpretation and Object Itineraries

A Material Culture Studies Lecture by Kristin Otto

Thursday May 14, 2020
2–3 p.m. (EST)

Email Jason Jackson at mchsl@indiana.edu to request Zoom details.

Following the emergence of repair as a topic of interest for material culture scholars, this talk examines the significance of repair for the “lives” / biographies / itineraries of ethnographic material culture in museum collections. Sowei masks (also known as Sande or Bundu masks) are among the most widely collected and easily recognizable objects from Africa in museum collections around the world. Repair proved to be a common experience for the masks as they circulated from performative contexts in West Africa into Western markets, collections, and institutions. Through in-depth case studies of five sowei masks in museum collections around the world, Otto examines how repair shapes the material and immaterial lives of the masks in new contexts and transactional spaces.

Kristin Otto is a Ph.D. candidate in Indiana University’s Department of Anthropology and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Her work as a museum anthropologist and curator focuses on how processes of making and repair impact our understandings of museum collections and material culture.

Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.

#AFSAM19: Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China

Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County E

A title slide showing key project sites in the Dong areas of Guangxi and Guizhou.

Shreds and Patches has been quieter than usual as I work my way through a really complicated semester. In the midst of the jumble of unforeseen circumstances, there are some good things actually happening according to plan. One of these was the most recent in a series of panels at the American Folklore Society Annual Meetings reporting on the work of the museum partners in the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project. Earlier this month, at the start of the 2019 meeting in Baltimore, members of our group, presented a panel on “Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.” This is the panel abstract:

In a three-year phase of the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, researchers from six museums have collaborated in a bi-national program of ethnographic research in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In this panel, project participants will report on the research, sometimes emphasizing textile practices such as embroidery and basketry, sometimes focusing on heritage issues, sometimes discussing the lessons of the collaboration. The presenters will share their findings in accessible ways but China specialists may wish to know that research has taken place among the Dong people of Sanjiang County and the Baiku Yao people living in Nandan County.

Carrie HERTZ (Museum of International Folk Art) presented on “The Fabric of Life: Baiku Yao Textiles in Huaili Village.”

Hertz - The Fabric of Life

A title slide related to the textile arts of the Baiku Yao people of Nandan County, Guangxi.

FAN Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) presented in absentia on “Field Research on Dong Textiles in the Tongle Area of Sanjiang County.”

Micah J. LING (Indiana University) shared her paper “Mijiu and Mai Wup: Trilingual Fieldwork and an Indigo Dying Method.”

LIANG Ziaoyan (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), also presenting in absentia, shared her paper “Imagination and Enlargement: Daily Performance and Life History in Ethnographic Video.” Her paper focused on her experiences in our work in Sanjiang County.

C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum) presented a paper that he and I, with help from ZHANG Lijun (George Mason University), worked on together titled: “Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.”

I (Jason Baird Jackson, Indiana University) presented a paper for which Lijun was co-author. It was about “Building a Museum Collection of Work Baskets in Northern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.” The paper focused on the collection of baskets assembled for the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

AFS2019 Jackson and Zhang C (Slides)

A slide evoking in basketry collected for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

The session concluded with a presentation of a film by Jon Kay (Indiana University) titled “A Rice Basket: Basketmaking in a Baiku Yao Community” It is now viewable online on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/QrD_-lrB9UY

This session, and one that preceded it in 2018, will be a springboard for more sustained writing by many project participants. We have learned much during our collaborative work in Guangxi. I thank many the local people in Nandan and Sanjiang Counties who have taught us and our hosts and partners at the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi. Special thanks also go to The Henry Luce Foundation, the China Folklore Society, and the American Folklore Society for their support of the broader projects of which ours museum and material culture efforts are just a part.

 

 

 

Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community: A Giving Heritage

It is a great moment for a great project. Some Shreds and Patches readers will remember when, in 2017, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures hosted the special exhibition A Giving Heritage: Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community. After debuting at the MMWC, this exhibition, developed in a partnership between the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (Sam Noble Museum) and the Osage Nation Museum, went on to be presented at the Osage Nation Museum. Now, the exhibition is on view, in an extended version, at the Sam Noble Museum. The Sam Noble Museum has organized a rich series of programs to accompany the exhibition, including a special community reception for citizens of the Osage Nation on November 1st. Dan Swan, the Interim Director and Curator for Ethnology at the Sam Noble Museum, served as lead curator for the exhibition.

Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community

Unboxing my copy of Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community. October 21, 2019.

I return to this exhibition not only because it is now on display at its originating institution but because the book Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community: A Giving Heritage, which stands alone but which also serves as a companion to the exhibition, has just been published by Indiana University Press in the Material Vernaculars series that I edit. The series has been a joint endeavor of the museum and the press. Wedding Clothes is the fifth title to appear in the series. As noted in other posts, MV titles are produced in paper editions sold by the press but also in free-to-readers versions shared digitally via the IUScholarWorks Repository. (It will may take a month or so for the free edition to be posted.) Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community was co-authored by Swan and Jim Cooley and includes a foreword by Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear.

My copy of the book arrived today and this is, hands-down, one of the most beautiful books that I have ever seen. IU Press went above and beyond with this one and it is really incredible to hold and to read as a book artifact. The book is filled with great images and they have been reproduced exquisitely on excellent paper. This is the first MV title to be printed in offset. That will not usually be possible with other MV titles, but in this case, with the exhibition and high Osage interest in play, the press was able to take this extra step. I urge everyone to find and enjoy a paper copy. Ideally purchase one. I know that $32 seems like a lot, but when you are holding this book, you will see and know that it is, unlike with so many academic titles, worth it.

IMG_1282

Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community makes its debut at the IU Press booth at the 2019 American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. October 17, 2019.

The book is more than a pretty object though. It is a rich historical and ethnographic account of Osage life. I really hope that you will devote time to reading this book. The investment will be rewarded. Gift giving is a key theme in Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community. I hope that you will receive the gift of this book.

(I will share news of the free edition when it is posted.)

“Framing Sukkot” Author, Curator Gabrielle Berlinger to Speak at MMWC

At the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, we have already had some very special public events at this fall semester. If you’ve attended some of these events, you surely want to keep going with a good thing. If you’ve missed out so for, you have a chance to get in the groove with a number of upcoming programs. You can find the whole schedule on our website here: https://mathersmuseum.indiana.edu/events1/index.html, but in this post I want to highlight our next Curator’s Talk, this time with Gabrielle Berlinger, Curator of the new exhibition Remembering the Ephemeral: the Ritual Architecture of Sukkot in Contemporary Life. Find the details in the flyer image below.

In addition to what the flyer notes, I will add that Professor Berlinger is an IU graduate who earned her PhD in Folklore, with a minor in Jewish Studies. She serves as an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Folklore and the Babette S. and Bernard J. Tanenbaum Fellow in Jewish History and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (see here for details). She is the author of a great book published in the Material Vernaculars series that the museum co-publishes with Indiana University Press. That book, titled Framing Sukkot, is described on the press’ website here: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808979 and a free-to-readers edition is available in IUScholarWorks: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/21232. Gabi also generously serves on the museum’s Policy Committee.

Gabi is a great speaker and it will be wonderful to welcome her back to Bloomington and the MMWC. Please join us.

Sukkot_Flyer_r

“At Home and Abroad: Reflections on Collaborative Museum Ethnography at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures”

I am happy to note the publication of a paper in Museum Anthropology reporting on, and considering, the work of two collaborative projects of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. This piece is: Jason Baird Jackson (2019) “At Home and Abroad: Reflections on Collaborative Museum Ethnography at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.” Museum Anthropology 42 (2): 62-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/muan.12210

Experiments in collaboration are at the heart of contemporary museum anthropology and museum folklore. If you are interested in issues of collaboration in museums of ethnography and world cultures, take note of the upcoming Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA) biannual meeting being held in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the theme of “Museums Different” (September 19-21, 2019). [I wish I could go!] Collaboration was also the theme of the recent conference that the MMWC co-hosted with its partners in Beijing. The program of that conference on “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” is available online on the American Folklore Society website (see Conference Seven here).

Jackson-2019-Museum_Anthropology

I usually work hard not to publish behind a paywall. There were CMA-suporting reasons that I did so in this case. Be in touch if I can be of help on that score.

The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies

The following is a report on The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies (第七届中美民俗学与非物质文化遗产论坛: 博物馆民俗与遗产研究的协作工作). The version of record appears on the website of the American Folklore Society. This version adds more images. You can find a copy of the conference program here. –Jason Baird Jackson (杰森. 拜尔德. 杰克逊)

During three beautiful spring days in Beijing, a group of Chinese and American scholars and cultural workers gathered to discuss practices of collaboration in folklore studies and intangible cultural heritage work, with a focus on collaborations between ethnographic museums and between such museums and other groups in society. Held on May 19-22, 2019, this was the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage, one of a long-running series of conferences organized cooperatively by the China Folklore Society (CFS) and the American Folklore Society (AFS), as part of a broader binational collaboration begun in 2007. These forums have explored various aspects of cultural heritage policy, practice, and theory, giving US and Chinese participants an opportunity to learn about the state of the field as pursued in the national context that is not their own (Lloyd 2017).

This Seventh Forum, focusing on Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, was held at the Indiana University China Gateway office in Beijing. Meeting under the auspices of the CFS and the AFS, the conference’s program was organized by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi (Guangxi Museum of Nationalities), with extensive logistical and practical support provided by the two societies and the gateway office staff. Generous financial support was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs at Indiana University.

Delegates to the forum came from a diversity of American and Chinese museums and universities. Chinese institutions represented included the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, Beijing Normal University, the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, East China Normal University, Fudan University, the Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Minzu University of China, Shandong University, and the Yunnan Nationalities Museum. American institutions represented included the Michigan State University Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, Texas Tech University, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Indiana University), History Miami, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (University of Oklahoma), and the American Folklore Society (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage held at the Indiana University Gateway Office in Beijing, May 19, 2019. Shu Caiqian (Guizhou Nationalities Museum), Zhang Yibing (Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Zhu Gang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Li Mingjie (East China Normal University), Wang Wei (Shandong University), Jessica Anderson Turner (American Folklore Society), An Deming (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Luo Wenhong (Fudan University), Marsha MacDowell (Michigan State University Museum), Surna (Minzu University of China), Kristin Otto (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Felicia Katz-Harris (Museum of International Folk Art), Sarah Hatcher (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Yang Lihui (Beijing Normal University), Lu Chaoming (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Chen Xi (Sun Yet-sen University), Carrie Hertz (Museum of International Folk Art), Chao Gejin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Wuerxiya (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Fan Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum), Yang Quanzhong (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), He Chun (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Michael Paul Jordan (Texas Tech University), Wu Dawei (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Ou Bo (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Michael Knoll (History Miami), Lan Yuanyuan (Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum), Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Jon Kay (Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Luo Yong (Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum), Mai Xi (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), Zhao Fei (Yunnan Nationalities Museum), Wang Yucheng (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi).

On the afternoon of May 19, the conference began with warm words of welcome from AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner and CFS Past President Chao Gajin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), standing in for current CFS President Ye Tao (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) who was unable to attend (Figure 2). Also offering brief opening remarks on behalf of the program committee were Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures) and Gong Shiyang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) (Figure 3). These remarks preceded the forum’s keynote address by C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum). Extending an earlier discussion of principles for museum collaboration (Dewhurt and MacDowell 2015), Dewhurt reflected on a range of museum collaborations in which he and the MSU Museum have participated. Among the collaborations that Dewhurst addressed were earlier phases of the AFS-CFS partnership, which has included two museum sub-projects (2013-2016; 2017-2019). The first of these encompassed the Fifth and Sixth forum events, the traveling exhibition and bilingual catalogue Quilts of Southwest China (MacDowell and Zhang 2015), and numerous other elements (Lloyd 2017). In this phase, three Chinese museums and three US museums partnered together (Dewhurst and Lloyd 2019). In the more recent phase, collaborators from the three U.S. museums have joined with the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi for a program of joint research focused on textiles and intangible cultural heritage policy in two northern counties of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Central to this new phase of work are the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum and the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum. Thus, while Dewhurst’s keynote was a general reflection on museum collaboration, his presentation also served to orient conferees to the specific joint AFS-CFS supported projects that gave the forum its organizational context.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion in which representatives from the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum and Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum described their work and the community and organizational collaborations in which they participate (Figure 4). American participants appreciated this opportunity to learn about the innovative work of these ecomuseums first-hand and drew comparisons to various kind of community-based museums in the US. While Chinese delegates were more knowledgeable about the form that ecomuseums take in China, they also appreciated the chance to engage with the ecomuseum leaders directly in a comparative scholarly context.

It was an honor that many Beijing-based leaders in the CFS and in Chinese folklore studies overall could attend these opening events, which also included a welcoming banquet generously hosted by the CFS. This gathering was enlivened further when the leaders of the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum introduced both Dong flute music and toasting songs to the group. For many American delegates, this was a memorable first experience with the richness of Chinese banquet customs and the beauty of Dong music (Figure 5).

The second day of the conference was a full day featuring presentations from Chinese and American delegates. In line with the goals of the forum, the presenters described specific museum collaboration projects, using them as the basis for broader reflections on the work of museum ethnography and heritage studies today. Translation for most conference presentations was very ably done by Chen Xi (Sun Yat-sen University) and Luo Wenhong (Fudan University) (Figure 6). A number of themes emerged through the juxtaposition of presentations throughout the conference. These included: (1) the nature of museum-based ethnographic and exhibition projects in urban contexts, (2) the dynamics unique to heritage-oriented fieldwork pursued across differences of language, culture, and institutional context, (3) the place of objects and material culture studies within museum collaborations, (4) the use of exhibitions as catalysts for broader collaborations and relationship building, (5) the value of older museum collections for contemporary communities and craftspeople, (6) the place of documentary video in museum ethnography, and (7) the special importance that attaches to national folk costume in diverse museum and local cultural contexts in the current era (Figure 7).

The conference’s third day featured a morning of additional presentations followed by a special outing in which conferees visited Beijing’s Shichahai historic area to learn about cultural preservation and heritage tourism activities centered there (Figures 8-9). Participants enjoyed a hutong tour and a visit to the Drum Towner of Beijing (Gulou). While she could not attend the forum, this outing was curated by Zhang Lijun (George Mason University) and drew upon her folklore research interpreting the narrative performances of hutong tour guides (Zhang 2016, 2019). The conference concluded with a banquet, hosted by AFS and featuring Yunnan cuisine. Highpoints of this concluding gathering were many individual expressions of friendship and goodwill as well as a vigorous singing competition staged between the binational groups gathered around two large banquet tables. Heartfelt singing in Dong, Yao, Mandarin, Mongolian and English brought the seventh forum to a joyful close.

References Cited

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Timothy Lloyd. 2019. “The American Folklore Society-China Folklore Society Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, 2013-2016.” Museum Anthropology Review 13 (1): 59-68. https://doi.org/10.14434/mar.v13i1.25405

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, and Marsha MacDowell. 2015. “Strategies for Creating and Sustaining Museum-Based International Collaborative Partnerships.” Practicing Anthropology 37 (3): 54–55. https://doi.org/10.17730/0888-4552-37.3.54

Lloyd, Tim. 2017 “The Inside Story of the AFS China-US Project.” https://www.afsnet.org/news/349609/The-Inside-Story-of-the-AFS-China-US-Project.htm, accessed June 12, 2019.

MacDowell, Marsha, and Lijun Zhang, eds. 2016. 中国西南拼布 | Quilts of Southwest China. Nanning: Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. [Distributed in the United States by Indiana University Press.]

Zhang, Lijun. 2016. “Performing Locality and Identity: Rickshaw Driver, Narratives, and Tourism.” Cambridge Journal of China Studies 11 (1): 88-104. https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/260292

Zhang, Lijun. 2019. “A Brief Guide to Shichahai.” Video Presentation Prepared for The Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies, Beijing, China.

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Figure 2. Figure 2. Chao Gajin welcomes delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 3. Figure 3. Gong Shiyang addresses delegates to the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 4. Wu Dawei offers remarks on the work of the Sanjang Dong Ecomuseum during the ecomuseum panel discussion. Left to Right: Lu Chaoming, He Chun, Lan Yuanyuan, Yang Quanzhong, Wu Dawei, Luo Wenhong (translating), Jason Baird Jackson. May 19, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 5. Wu Dawei performs Dong flute music at the opening banquet. May 19, 2019. Photograph by C. Kurt Dewhurst.

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Figure 6. Zhang Yibing discusses the work of the Guizhou Nationalities Museum with Luo Wenhong providing English translation.. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 7. Carrie Hertz discusses research related to the exhibition Dressing with Purpose. May 20, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 8. Surna discusses her research on Mongol national dress. May 21, 2019. Photograph by Jon Kay.

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Figure 9. Lan Yuanyuan and He Chun begin a rickshaw tour of the Shichahai neighborhood in Beijing. May 21, 2019. Photography by Jason Baird Jackson.

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