I am wholeheartedly in agreement with this blog post that says: “in research terms blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.” While the authors go on to make a case that multi-author blogging is the way to go, which I’m not sure I agree with, I am on board with most of their other points. Disseminating our ideas to other scholars at a rate much faster than the peer-review process is a wonderful opportunity that I think scholars ignore at their own risk.
The authors assert that “social scientists have an obligation to society to contribute their observations to the wider world.” I couldn’t agree more. The stereotype of the ivory tower as an isolated realm of curmudgeonly intellectuals has always bothered me, and we tend to get the worst of it in the humanities since philosophy is useless speculation, right? Art history is irrelevant to all but specialists, right? And studying folklore prepares you to write children’s books, of course (note the heavy dose of sarcasm).
I’ve always believed that any study of any human activity is worthwhile. Period. The whole purpose of theory is to explore and articulate the connections between the particular and the general. So when I study a specific culture or sub-culture, no matter how small, I am learning something about how that group deals with their living conditions in a way that is both specific to them and relates back to people as a whole. When I study a certain genre, such as fairy tales or dance, I am learning how people creatively respond to their life experiences. People of all ages and cultures and genders and religions encounter horribly arbitrary (and arbitrarily horrible) things in their lives – but they also have some agency, some shape to fit their experiences into according to their belief systems and individual temperaments.
At risk of overgeneralizing, the shape that people gives their lives is folklore. It’s partly absorbed from culture, partly sculpted by the individual; it’s the dynamic tension between group identity and individual identity. It’s the creative response to anything and everything that is shared and collective yet impacts one on a personal level. Everything that we experience shapes us, but we also push back at the mold, choosing which stories to tell and respond to, choosing which signs to put on our bodies and smartphones.
I blog to put my ideas out there. I blog because I love to write about what I study (okay, I love to write in general), and because i believe that what I study is relevant to just about everyone. I know not everyone will respond to folklore as passionately as I do, but that’s okay. The internet is big and there’s room enough for everyone to pull up a chair and tell their stories.