William C. Sturtevant’s collection includes a group of baskets purchased in 1961 at the Choctaw Indian Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi. This example (above) is part of this group. It is number 580 and I have not yet learned who the artist who made it is. This basket is made from rivercane, a plant related to bamboo that is indigenous to the Southeast of North America.
To gain a sense of native basket making in the South as a dynamic cultural activity, check out these photographs from the 1st Gathering of Southeastern Indian Basketweavers in 2002. This was an event organized by the Louisiana Regional Folklife Program and the Williamson Museum.
Here is another basket from this group. A rivercane tray, it is number 576. Both are in the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.
When wearing my curator hat, I have seen how ubiquitous love of tiny baskets seems to be, at least among fans of hand made objects. While I am sure that some engineer is doing nano-scale weaving already, tiny-scale seems good enough for fans of Native American basketry. The best known heroes in this area are the basket weavers of California, particularly the Pomo with their amazing feather covered baskets, but the art of the tiny basket has also been pursued in the native South. This impulse is reflected in this Choctaw basket by “Sweeny Willis” that was collected by John Mann Goggin among the Choctaw residing near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Ms. Willis’s name is spelled “Sweenie” elsewhere, such as in the records associated with pottery that she made that is in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian.
This single weave river cane basket is currently referred to as #494 in the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.
For a bit of theorizing, look below the fold.
Today, out of town folklorists started appearing around Bloomington for a series of events designed to rally the local troops and welcome the earliest of the visitors coming to Bloomington for the American Folklore Society meetings. I spent the early afternoon in a fruitful Open Folklore planning meeting, but my colleagues welcomed Dr. Fekade Azeze, Associate Associate Professor of Ethiopian Literature and Folklore, and Coordinator of the Folklore Graduate Programme, at Addis Adeba University in Ethiopia. USC Folklorist Tok Thompson moderated a discussion with Dr. Azeze at midday and then he delivered a lecture on customary dispute resolution in the afternoon. I made it to the talk and it was very stimulating material. Dr. Azeze described the customary legal system of two of the largest Ethiopian peoples and situated these practices in the contemporary context, describing efforts to study such systems as a means of indigenizing the national legal system, which is largely founded on non-Eithiopian principles and practices.
Immediately after the lecture, there was an opening reception for the Faces of Fieldwork exhibition curated by Pravina Shukla, Michael Lee, and Carrie Hertz and on exhibition at the Mathers Museum. The portrait photographs submitted by the contributing ethnographers were stunning, the exhibition was well mounted by the Mathers staff, and the reception was a nice opportunity to experience the exhibition and welcome guests to town for the meetings.
I had to get home for family responsibilities, by a departmental reception for early-arriving alumni (Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology) was held. I am sure that a good time was had by all.
Tomorrow things begin in earnest, with pre-conference tours both on-campus (IU research collections and archives) and off (Southern Indiana regional sights focusing on the limestone industry). The meeting will open formally tomorrow night, with the highlight being Henry Glassie’s plenary lecture and a big welcoming reception. I will spend the day in an AFS board meeting.
Safe travels and welcome!
Soon a large group of folklorists, from the U.S. and from many countries, will be visiting my adopted home town of Bloomington, Indiana. The 2011 American Folklore Society meetings are returning to Indiana University for the first time since 1968. There is much history that could be recounted, but it seems very salient that 1968 is a year famous for its protests and revolutions. 2011 is shaping up as a revolutionary year as well. This convergence relates to the conference theme (which was chosen well over a year ago)–Peace, War, Folklore.
How did the conference planners come to select this theme? Its a timely one and, as the program it prompted shows, a fruitful one. The immediate inspiration came from a desire to tie in to a semester-long program at Indiana University (organized by the College of Arts and Sciences) called Themester. As the name suggests, a themester is a semester theme that provides a basis for campus-wide activities, courses, and programs. At IU the Themesters happen during fall semesters. The theme for 2011 is Making War, Making Peace.
It is exciting that the AFS meetings can stand out as one of the big Themester events for 2011. The Themester program maintains a blog and the two most recent posts are by members of the AFS planning committee. In his post, conference chair Michael Dylan Foster explains the conference theme in light of folkloristics on the one hand and Themester on the other. In a second post, Jon Kay, Director of Traditional Arts Indiana and a member of the conference committee describes a TAI-organized, Themester-supported exhibition on the art of Gustav Potthoff, a man who paints to preserve and convey personal memories of the horrors of war and the prisoner-of-war experience based on his internment during World War II, during which he was among those forced to build the notorious “bridge over the River Kwai.”
To learn more about Themester at IU, see the program website. Thanks go to the Themester leadership for its engagement with the 2011 AFS meetings. (Public conference events relating to the Themester are listed here.)
I am happy to report that real and significant progress in the Open Folklore project continues to be made. A year ago (October 13, to be exact) the American Folklore Society and the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries launched the Open Folklore project and its associated web portal. Open Folklore is about promoting open access in the field of folklore studies (/ethnology) and about fostering partnerships among those working towards the goals of open access in the field. On behalf of the OF project team, I was the author of a news release/project report on the most recent accomplishments of the project and the most recent content additions accessible via the portal site. This was published this morning and is available from the Open Folklore portal.
As readers of the news release will discover, highlights over the past six months include making programs and reports related to the annual meetings of the American Folklore Society (going back to 1889) freely accessible, the launch of the AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus, and the continued growth in the number of AFS section journals being made freely accessible in digital form. The big picture is that the community is continuing to come together to advance the goal of making folklore scholarship and resources more discoverable and accessible to community members, students, tradition bearers, and scholars worldwide. As was recognized this summer when OF was recognized with the Outstanding Collaboration Award by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) during the American Library Association meetings, folklorists have a lot to be proud of. We are pioneering in many parts of the scholarly communications world, from the development of open access journals, books, repositories and archives to developing generalizable collaboration strategies for organizational partnership, especially between libraries, non-commercial publishers, and scholarly societies.
I encourage everyone to get caught up with what OF has been up to over the past six months and to continue to spread the word about the project while putting the tools and resources available at http://openfolklore.org to use in your work.
Let the #AFS11 posts begin. The 2011 American Folklore Society meetings will be held here in Bloomington on the campus of Indiana University. This is the 1st time since 1968 that the meetings have been held on a college campus (that 1968 meeting was also here at IU). It may be a record meeting in terms of attendance and many innovative program items are going to be debuted. The first of these to mention, and the one of greatest potential interest to those who cannot attend, is the news that selected portions of the meeting will be accessible online via streaming video. In the remainder of this post (below the fold, so to speak) I will share the details. Highlights include the Opening Plenary Address by Henry Glassie (“War, Peace, and the Folklorist’s Mission”), The Francis Lee Utley Memorial Lecture of the AFS Fellows by Margaret Mills “Achieving the Human: Strategic Essentialism and the Problematics of Communicating across Cultures in Traumatic Times”, and the AFS Presidential Address by C. Kurt Dewhurst “Museums and Folkloristics: Folklorists’ Legacy and Future in Museum Theory and Practice.” This is just a portion of the events that are scheduled to be streamed. Learn the details on how to do it and what is going to be accessible below. (The first two of these three major addresses relate to the conference theme–Peace, War, Folklore. This theme was chosen to articulate with the IU “Themester” theme of Making War, Making Peace. The full conference program is freely accessible here. It contains abstracts for all events.) Read more
I wish to note the passing of fellow Floridian and folklorist Stetson Kennedy. I did not know him, but I admire his work and his remarkable career. As the detailed obituary published Tuesday in the New York Times will suggest, he is very much a person worth knowing about. To have hung out with Woody Guthrie and Zora Neale Hurston, married seven times, and crippled the Ku Klux Klan via a Superman radio show and lived to 94–that’s a life. Rest in Peace.
This is a shout-out. I have boundless respect and admiration for my senior colleague Hasan El-Shamy. Dr. El-Shamy is continuing to make crucial contributions to the social sciences and humanities, especially in his beloved field of folklore studies. He is a leader in considering the mutual implications of psychology and folklore studies. He is a world renowned scholar of Middle Eastern expressive culture and belief systems. He has advanced comparative methods and theories in folklore studies, adapting them for the current century. He has argued persuasively for the importance of recognizing vernacular theorizing on the human condition and he has an uncanny ability to recognize the lay social theories expressed in the most humble of expressive genres and folk beliefs and to connect these to the longterm concerns of psychological, social and cultural theory in the academic mode. At another end of the continuum, he is in dialogue with literary scholars as a consequence of his detailed studies of a key canonical text in world literature—The Thousand and One Nights. The glowing reviews that his works receive and the global community of admirers in dialogue with his studies speak to his centrality and influence to our field.
In the past several years, Dr. El-Shamy has published numerous important books, including Tales Arab Women Tell (IU Press, 1999), Popular Stories of Ancient Egypt (Oxford University Press, 2002), Types of the Folktale in the Arab World (IU Press, 2004), Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature (Sharpe, 2005), A Motif Index of The Thousand and One Nights (IU Press, 2006), and Religion Among the Folk in Egypt (Praeger, 2008). In one of countless high profile recognitions that he has received, this year he was recognized with the honor of being the “Great China Lecturer” at East China Normal University in Shanghai. He was the 94th internationally recognized scholar to be accorded this distinction.
Dr. El-Shamy is on a well-deserved research leave this semester and I wish him well in his continuing research endeavors.
It will be more than a year and a half before my paper on the ox-hide purchase story is published in the Journal of American Folklore. Since my revisions are now complete, I am happy to temporarily post a preprint here. I am a big advocate for institutional repositories such as IUScholarWorks Repository and my fellow repository boosters may wonder why I have not (as I so often preach) placed the preprint there. In this case, the American Folklore Society is transitioning to a new author agreement that will, when the time comes, allow me to post the final published version to IUSW. For that reason, I am making the preprint available in a way that will be easy to take down once the paper is published.
This is a paper that many great people helped me work on over many years. To all of them, thank you!