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Posts from the ‘Modern Language Association’ Category

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 in the American Folklore Society: The Founding AFS Fellows

As I noted in the previous post in this series on the presence and absence of Native American and First Nations studies work within the American Folklore Society, the 1940s began with a political intervention aimed at resolving tensions within the AFS between anthropological folklorists and humanistic, particularly, literature-oriented, folklorists. That moment of crisis is of focused interest here because those folklorists most consistently concerned with Native American and First Nations issues were anthropological in orientation. Most were concurrently active in the American Anthropological Association and, unlike the more literary folklorists, were unlikely to be involved in the Modern Language Association. The broader take away in the second post, which reflected meetings organized in the wake of this anthropology/literary studies intervention, was that in the 1940s, AFS meetings were, in general, very small and that Native American and First Nations-focused scholarship was regularly, but not consistently, present as a small slice a among a collection of small slices within a small field characterized by relatively small meetings even in relationship to the size of the community of folklorists then active in settler colonized North America.

The first post saw similar trends continue into the 1950s–small meetings featuring a small amount of work in Native American and First Nations content. It will be necessary to study other documents beyond the 1950s meeting programs to determine if the pattern seen in the 1940s–of a sizable number of anthropological folklorists working in, and sometimes with, First Nations and Native American communities continuing as a background phenomena to a greater extent that modest program participation would suggest.

One point of data available for the end of the 1950s is the story of the Fellows of the American Folklore Society, which was founded in 1960 (thus, effectively reflecting the state of affairs at the end of the decade. Information of the AFS Fellows can be found on the current AFS website, where all Fellows, past and present, are noted by name. Those who are deceased are so noted and, most relevantly for this project, those who were founding fellows are so noted. If one pulls the names of these first fellows out of the larger list, one can assess the orientation and work focus of this group of disciplinary leaders on colonized Turtle Island at the end of the 1950s. Rather than presenting the names is alphabetical order, I present them here in series of groupings. (For those interested in gender inbalance, I mark men and women in different colors. I also note the gender parity found among the anthropological folklorists.*

The first grouping represents scholars whose primary scholarly involvements concerned Native North America. This first cluster is comprised of two men and two women. In each case, there is nuance that can be added. Each of these four worked fully or significantly in Native American studies as anthropological folklorists. Anna Gayton also did work with Azorean Portuguese immigrants in California. Morris Olpler was also involved in work with Japanese Americans disgracefully interned during WWII and pursued work in East Asian studies also.

  • William Fenton (Ph.D. in Anthropology, 1937)
  • Anna H. Gayton (Ph.D. in Anthropology, 1928)
  • Morris E. Opler (Ph.D. in Anthropology, 1933)
  • Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin (Ph.D. in Anthropology, 1939)

Two other anthropological folklorists can be found in the initial Fellows, one man and one woman. Melville Herskovits was trained in, and worked in, the Americanist anthropological milieu, but was himself a student of African and African American societies. Katherine Luomala had research experience among Native American peoples and was involved, like Morris Opler, in applied work with interned Japanese Americans, but her primary work was set in Hawaii and the Pacific more generally. From the perspective of present-day work in Native American and Indigenous Studies, her involvements in Hawaii would readily move her to the first group.

  • Melville Herskovits (Ph.D. in Anthropology, 1923)
  • Katherine Luomala (Ph.D. in Anthropology, 1936)

Standing somewhat alone as the singular individual that he was, is Thomas Sebeok. Trained in Oriental languages he engaged with anthropology, linguistics, and folklore and was a pioneer in semiotics. His work related to a boundless range of topics, but included Uralic and Altaic languages.

  • Thomas Sebeok (Ph.D. in Oriental Languages, 1945)

The final group is comprised of scholars primarily focusing on European and European American expressive cultures. Most did so on the basis of training in English or another European language, but I note that Halpert held an M.A. in anthropology. Stith Thompson bridged Native and European tale traditions in his dissertation on European tales found among Native American peoples. George Korson rose to a position of prominence on the bases of his research and writings without a university degree. Thelma James held the M.A. degree but did not complete her doctoral studies, although she accomplished much within the discipline. Warren Roberts, from whom I took a class, earned the first Ph.D. in folklore in the United States, at Indiana. He would go on to pursue material culture research in the folklife/European ethnology tradition, but he was trained in the English language studies-informed mode of his mentor and fellow fellow Stith Thompson, as was Herbert Halpert.

  • Tristram P. Coffin (Ph.D. in English, 1949)
  • Herbert Halpert (Ph.D. in English, 1947)
  • Wayland Hand (Ph.D. in Germanic Languages, 1936)
  • Arthur Palmer Hudson (Ph.D. in English, 1930)
  • George Korson
  • Thelma G. James (M.A. in English, 1923)
  • W. Edson Richmond (Ph.D. in English, 1947)
  • Warren Roberts (Ph.D. in Folklore, 1953)
  • Stith Thompson (Ph.D. in English, 1914)
  • Francis Lee Utley (Ph.D. in English, 1936)
  • D.K. Wilgus (Ph.D. in English, 1954)

If we divide the group in to those affiliated with anthropology (including Sebeok), there are seven on this side of the binary divide and eleven on the other side. Of the eighteen founding fellows, four are generally understood as engaged participants in Native American studies, with Stith Thompson maintaining an interest in the field going back to his dissertation and non-trivial ongoing relationships with anthropologists.

How to read this data? I know that the matter is more complex than the following, but by 1960, I think that the days of parity of engagement between literary and anthropological folklore studies were over and that anthropological engagement was significantly diminishing as a growing sense of autonomy for folklore studies as an independent discipline in colonized North America had taken root. There would be re-connections to come (with the influence, for instance, of Dell Hymes and a broader re-connection under the auspices of the ethnography of speaking), but the old relationships of the pre-war era and the Boasian Americanist tradition mainly existed in individualized commitments (Ex. Fenton’s this period, my own in the current one) not as a wholesale collective enterprise in which AFS involvement was simply normative for anthropological ethnographers. As for Native American studies work in folklore, key individuals would come on the scene and do noteworthy work–Barre Toelken provides a clear example–but again, the field was about to grow both in numbers of participants and in diversity of interests and Native American studies would, I anticipate, continue to become a smaller and smaller part of the whole. Study of the meeting programs and JAF for the 1960s may prove me wrong in this anticipation.

* Beyond throwing shade, which I totally am, there are real reasons, both biographical and structural, in the history of American anthropology and the history of American literary studies for this gender difference.

No founding member of the AFS Fellows is known to me to have been a citizen of a Native American Nation. Please correct me if you know me to be in error on this point.

MLA and AAA Author Agreements Revisited (Plus Improvements to the AAA Agreement)

This note is an update to yesterday’s post regarding comments made comparing the author agreement used by the American Anthropological Association to the newly changed agreement announced by the Modern Language Association.

In a comment on the original AAA blog post, MLA Executive Director Rosemary Feal confirmed that under the new MLA agreement authors retain their original copyright and are not asked to transfer it to the association in order to be published in its journals.

In a later comment to that AAA blog post and in a follow up posting, Joslyn Osten of the AAA staff confirmed that the AAA author agreement does transfer copyright in accepted works from the author to the association

These confirmations indicate that my observation that the two agreements were distinctive (in a way that I judge to to significant) is accurate.

Along the way, I was pleased to discover something new (to me) about the AAA author agreement. As a former AAA editor, I spent a good bit of time with the author agreements in use during that period (2005-2009). The agreement in use during most of this period is the agreement that has been celebrated as SHERPA/RoMEO green. A key concern that I have had about that agreement was that it did not clarify for potential authors what form (post-print, publisher version, etc.) was allowed to circulate outside the official publications channels. In the new AAA blog post, a link is given to the current AAA author agreement and this document is different from earlier versions in this regard (the relevant language is quoted in the post itself, as well). Clarifying language has been added to item three under the heading “Author’s Rights.” The older version of the author agreement is presently available from the SHERPA/RoMEO website (look up American Anthropological Association to find it). Comparing the recent to the current agreement shows that what was previously called an “article” (in the contexts of retained author rights) is now described as either a “post-print” (a term of art now clearly defined in the agreement) or (quite generously) “uncorrected page proofs”. Allowing authors to circulate “uncorrected page proofs” along the green OA path represents a significant step above and beyond the minimum threshold required to qualify as a green OA publisher. (Post-print is the threshold for green OA. For further information, consult the SHERPA/RoMEO database, particularly its section on “RoMEO Colours.”

I commend the AAA on these improvements to its author agreement. As an observer of such things, I would have been satisfied with the clarification embodied in the move from “article” to “post-print”. That the association has agreed to allow uncorrected page proofs to circulate represents a noteworthy additional step. (I am sure that this shift to include “uncorrected page proofs” is not totally new, its just new to my awareness. It seems likely that it has happened in the past six months given that the change was not discussed at the time of the 2011 AAA meetings at which I spoke on the subject of green OA in the AAA. Allowing the circulation of uncorrected page proofs has its pros and (significant) cons, of course, but, be they what they may, this is what many AAA authors are doing anyway and this shift thus effectively “decriminalizes” a widespread practice among association members.

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