Deciding the Future of Folkloristics at #FOAF2017

Deciding the Future of Folkloristics at #FOAF2017 May 20, 2017

In an ideal world, I’d be doing All The Conferences, especially those that have a discernible impact on my discipline’s future. Thank goodness for Twitter!

A selfie from the last time I was at a conference (in Oregon), looking concerned.
A selfie from the last time I was at a conference (in Oregon), looking concerned.

I’m squeezing in a ton of conferences this year, but I just couldn’t swing the Future of American Folkloristics since it’s taking place in Bloomington, Indiana like right now (literally, today) and my semester at Berkeley just wrapped up. This is a topic I’m keenly interested in, though, since I am a folklorist and I want my discipline to continue to exist in the future. Better yet, I’d love for it to do so in a sustainable way.

I’m hoping to cover this in a future #FolkloreThursday post, but our field has had some tussles with the whole “professional vs. amateur” issue before. We’ve also had to deal with folksplainers. I know every academic discipline has growing pains, but it seems that folklore’s had more than its fair share lately. And I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen, with so few academic jobs offered and the public-sector jobs (some of which I’ve described here) becoming ever more contingent too, it seems.

I love being a folklore blogger here at Patheos, and part of why I do it is wanting to spread the good word about how awesome folklore studies is. But, as I tweeted to my buds at the conference:

Y’all realize saying “promote folklore” when there are so few full-time jobs is essentially turning the discipline into a hobby?

I think it’s poisonous and hypocritical to expect scholars to either work for free on folklore as our side job while we also have to work some other job to keep food on the table, and simultaneously expect our discipline to present itself as a professional, rigorous, academic one. And I wish I could say this in person to all the discipline’s leaders and up-and-coming scholars who are gathered this week for the conference, but, well, I can’t.

Luckily, the #FOAF2017 hashtag on Twitter is pretty active. It seems that more folklorists are finally getting over their Luddite tendencies. And you can see the schedule on the Future of American Folkloristics website (they even have a Cafepress store!).

So if, like me, you’re also interested in these issues, hop on Twitter, or perhaps wait for the conference recap post I’m begging some of my colleagues/friends to write. I’m sure there’s a future for folklorists in America… I’m just not sure what it looks like.


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