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Folklore and Anthropology

October 16 2015 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

        will host a joint symposium

Folklore and Anthropology

Friday 16 October, 10.00am to 5.00pm

Anthropology and Folklore Studies had a common origin, and today have many areas of common interest in topics, research methods and theory.   In this one-day symposium, which is intended to be an annual event, 6 younger scholars (3 from each society) will give extended presentations on current research.  There will be generous opportunity to discuss papers as part of the presentation, and in a final roundtable session.  The symposium will be jointly chaired by Prof James H. Grayson (University of Sheffield) President of The Folklore Society, and Dr David Shankland, Director of the RAI.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to http://folkloreanthropology.eventbrite.co.uk


10.00am-10.15am Opening

Professor Peter Riviere (University of Oxford)
The FLS and the RAI: the drifting apart

At the beginning of the 20th century the Folklore Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute were very close. There was considerable overlap of membership, especially among officers and members of the councils; there was cooperation on various projects; and in the 1890s there were even discussions over the amalgamation of the two societies. This closeness continued up until WWII, but even then, with hindsight, it is possible to detect the beginnings of a separation. After the war, although cooperation continued for a while, the two societies continued to drift further apart; the overlap of membership, especially among council members, gradually disappeared, as did cooperative endeavours. In this paper the initial closeness is examined, its gradual decline and some possible reasons for it proposed.

Tea and Coffee: 11.00-11.20am

Dr Tina Paphitis
Folklore and Ethnographic Archaeology in Landscape Perspective

Since the development of a post-processual, interpretive and contextual archaeology in the 1980s, archaeologists have sought to consider the various ways in which the past and its remains are viewed and used in the present by diverse social groups. Such investigations have often been undertaken as part of a ‘multivocal’ approach within larger archaeological projects, in which researchers reflexively note their own position and engage other interest groups, including, but not restricted to, indigenous, post-diasporic and religious groups. This has made major inroads into the recognition of the legitimacy of non-professional groups’ connections to archaeology, and broadened archaeologists’ understanding of the meaning of the historic environment to such groups. However, a multivocal approach within archaeology has some limitations, and has been little developed from its original framework, since it often treats these varied voices as ‘alternative’ to archaeological interpretation, and as somewhat disembodied from the places of interest. Further, whilst valuable and, indeed, essential as part of many archaeological research projects, examinations of the various views and meanings of archaeological places can and should be undertaken as research projects in their own right, in what can be viewed as an ‘ethnographic archaeology’. An ethnographic archaeology explores the contemporary relevance and meaning of material traces and landscapes to diverse publics, and is a major component of the study of the life-histories of archaeological places.

It is proposed here that folklore, as both a discipline and a body of material, is well-placed to provide a methodology and dataset for ethnographic archaeological research, since such practices are often connected to specific places and are laden with meaning to particular groups who may otherwise be overlooked in traditional archaeological investigations. In this session I will explore how folklore – in particular, folk narratives – contributes to an ethnographic approach to historical and contemporary engagements with archaeological sites and landscapes. Taking a lead from Scandinavian folkloristics in the examination of legend and landscape, this session will use case studies from recent research on the folklore of archaeological sites in Britain to demonstrate the varied connections between people and place in the past and present, and how folklore and ethnographic methods in historical and contemporary archaeology are essential to gaining an insight into the public understanding, use and perception of the past and in identity- and heritage-construction.

Tina Paphitis received her PhD from the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, where she examined the development of folk narratives about archaeological sites and landscapes from the medieval period to the present in relation to their socio-political contexts. She is the co-founder and organiser of the ‘Popular Antiquities: Folklore and Archaeology’ conferences (organised with the Folklore Society) and Assistant Editor of Public Archaeology.

Professor Florentina Badalanova Geller (Royal Anthropological Institute / Freie Universität, Berlin)
The Folk Bible:  Oral Tradition and Holy Writ

Oral renditions of Biblical themes and motifs will be examined within the vernacular framework of indigenous ethnohermeneutics, with special emphasis on the ways in which gaps or repetitions in the canonical narrative were interpreted by native, homegrown Christian exegetes. Although most of them could not read the scriptural text, they instead sang and story-told what they imagined to be “the Bible”. Unlike its canonical counterpart, this unwritten Holy Writ was as intangible as it was incorporeal. Its oral hypostases were incessantly changing their appearance at each new performance. In fact, it was “the Bible” ever imagined, but never held. This unwritten “Bible of the folk” was considered by unlettered believers to be the ultimate source-compendium revealing the divine truth about the origins of Universe and mankind, and the wisdom behind the intertwined existence of the macrocosm and the microcosm. It can be argued that this kind of vernacular interpretations of the Holy Scripture enables us to eyewitness the unfolding of the proto-biblical oral hypertext from which the canonical corpus eventually sprang; vestiges of this Ur-text can be traced in apocryphal writings and rabbinic tradition (midrashim). So far scholarly consensus argues that there are no surviving oral witnesses to the ancient proto-biblical oral heritage, but some recently recorded Bible-related folklore texts present a serious challenge to such a position. Many modern oral counterparts of Holy Writ still “remember” the earliest stages of its pre-literary existence; furthermore oral attestations of biblical narrative tradition (as recorded by folklorists and ethnographers in the 19th-20th centuries) suggest that the canonical scriptural text coexisted for centuries with its clandestine, constantly evolving oral “twin”, the Folk Bible.   This paper will reflect the results of many years of research on this topic, supported by the British Council, Modern Humanities Research Association, and the British Academy.

LUNCH 12.50pm-1.30pm

Professor John Morgan (University of Nottingham/University of Cardiff)
Folklore, Indigenous Knowledge, and Education: The Chewa

Based on ‘Folklore as an instrument of education among the Chewa people of Zambia’ (Dennis Banda and W. John Morgan, International Review of Education, 2013. 59:197–216), this paper considers the folklore of the Chewa people of Zambia as an instrument of education, using Ocitti’s five principles of an African Indigenous Knowledge System (AIKS): preparationism, functionalism, communalism, perennialism, and holisticism.  It suggests a fine distinction between Chewa culture [mwambo wa a Chewa] and Chewa education [maphunziro ya Uchewa]. The former comprises tribal ‘‘truths’’ to be inculcated informally. The latter formal learning. It demonstrates how Chewa culture and education use folklore to influence the young, but does not present folklore as an educational panacea. Instead, it is a supplementary in education, enhancing quality and sustaining cultural identity.

Dr Lucy Wright (Manchester Metropolitan University)            
“Et in Orcadia Ego”: Contemporary folk scholarship and the case of girls’ carnival morris dancing

Highly competitive, modern in appearance, urban and female-led, girls’ morris dancing functions at a remove from the “traditional” spaces of the English folk movement. It unsettles dominant assumptions about how “folk” might be defined and recognized, while the use of artistic research opens new possibilities in representation and dissemination.            

Focusing primarily on the case of girls’ carnival (“fluffy”) morris dancing, the paper will consider three topics:
– provide an introduction to girls’ carnival morris dancing – currently underrepresented in literature – which draws on my fieldwork experiences with Orcadia Morris Dancers from Skelmersdale in West Lancashire;
–  analyse possible implications of girls’ morris dancing in the context of contemporary folklore studies; and
–  present an applied example example of the use of novel “artistic research” methodologies in folklore scholarship.

Lucy Wright is an artist and Research Associate at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is interested in contemporary manifestations of “tradition”, and in the development of novel, “artistic research” methodologies for the social sciences. Her recent practice-led PhD explored the contemporary legacy of performances associated with the Northwest Town Carnival Movement. In her spare time, she sings with the BBC Folk Award nominated band, Pilgrims’ Way.

Tea and coffee 3.00-3.30pm

Dr Victoria Newton (Open University)
‘Babies might be born with deformities because of chemicals in the contraception’: Vernacular knowledge and its implications for sexual health research

Sexual health researchers recognise the influence that lay-knowledge and health myths can have on women’s contraceptive choice. This paper considers the application of contemporary folklore research (health ‘myths’) to sexual health research and practice. It will discuss a number of studies undertaken by the author concerning different contraceptive methods and women’s attitudes towards their reproductive bodies. The author will discuss how word-of-mouth information networks can be very influential in a woman’s decision to use or not to use a particular method of contraception, and will outline the implications of misinformation for contraceptive use and adherence. The presentation will conclude with a discussion about the uses of folklore research in applied social research, and the importance of such investigation for challenging and improving practice in reproductive and sexual health care.

Victoria Newton works as a Research Associate in Sexual Health at The Open University. She is a cross-disciplinary researcher, having originally studied English and Folklore before making the transition to Sociological Studies and Healthcare research. Victoria undertook her Doctorate at the University of Sheffield. Her PhD was entitled ‘Menstruation: Contemporary Popular Knowledge and Belief’. Her thesis drew inspiration from Social Science, Anthropology and Folklore Studies, and she was awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to carry out this research, gaining her PhD in April 2011.  Victoria’s current research concentrates on young people and sexual health, and areas of focus include long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, young women’s fertility knowledge, contraceptive adherence, menstruation, abortion, and sexual health services and provision.

4.15pm-5.00pm Closing Discussion



October 16 2015
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Event Category: