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2006 Botkin Lectures

Online Archive of Past Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lectures

All of the materials from the Botkin Lectures are available to visitors in the Folklife Reading Room. Selected materials will be made available online as digital versions are available and as permissions from the authors can be obtained.

The PDF files of the event flyers on this page require Adobe Acrobat Reader (free from Adobe).

November 8, 6:30-7:30 PM
Montpelier Room, 6th Floor, James Madison Building

Norma Cantú"La Quinceañera: A Coming of Age Ritual in Latino Communities" presented by Norma E. Cantú, Professor of English, University of Texas at San Antonio.

Read the event flyer essay

View the webcast of this presentation Time 36:17

The Quinceañera, the traditional coming-of-age celebration for Latinas, is an an elegant party on the girl's fifteenth birthday, highlighting God, family, friends, music, food, and dance. Many questions emerge as one looks at this fascinating and complex rite of passage: what are its essential elements? What are its origins in indigenous Mexican tradition and in European tradition? What are the components that define it as a coming of age ritual? How does the performance of the feminine play out in the celebration? How do "border theory" and "mestizaje theory" apply to this particular event? In answering these and the more critical question — why would a family spend thousands of dollars to celebrate a birthday? — we can gain insight into the cultural practices of Latino communities.

Norma E. Cantú currently serves as Professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska — Lincoln. She is the editor of a book series, Rio Grande/Rio Bravo: Borderlands Culture and Tradition, at Texas A&M University Press and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Author of the award-winning Canícula Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera, and co-editor of Chicana Traditions: Continuity and Change, she has just finished a novel, Cabañuelas and is currently working on another novel tentatively titled: Champú, or Hair Matters. and an ethnography of the Matachines de la Santa Cruz, a religious dance drama from Laredo, Texas.

Wednesday, October 11, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm
Pickford Theater, 3rd floor, James Madison Building

Image: Book cover showing Indian woman artist"The Changing Worlds of the Patuas of West Bengal" Presented by Frank Korom, Associate Professor of Religion and Anthropology at Boston University.

Read the event flyer essay (PDF 2 pages, 337kb)

View the webcast of this presentation Time 1:09:53

This presentation explores the changing world of Patuas, a community of itinerant scroll painters and singers residing in Medinipur District, West Bengal, India. The lecture intends to elaborate on how these impoverished artists are now adapting to modernity by expanding their repertoires to include contemporary social and political issues, such as communal violence in India, religious identity construction, HIV prevention, and even 9/11 and the recent tsunami. Originally they were low-caste Hindus who converted en masse to Islam, but as a result of them singing praise songs about Hindu gods and goddesses for Hindu patrons, they have not become fully accepted into the Muslim Ummah. At the same time, however, they are not fully accepted by Hindus because of their low-caste status and tendency to eat beef. As a result, they live perpetually on the margins of Bengali society. However, they are able to use their marginality to negotiate their identities locally as well as globally, now that they have become transnational citizens whose work is being recognized in museums and universities around the world. Image: Frank Korom (in foreground)  with Patuas artist familyThe lecture argues that the Patuas have not totally succumbed to the process of mimicking their newfound western patrons by becoming "modern" along the lines expected by Euro-Americans. Rather, the Patuas have been able to craft a form of alternative modernity that appeals aesthetically to a western audience, but without completely deviating from traditional Bengali canons of popular performance.

Frank J. Korom is an Associate Professor of Religion and Anthropology at Boston University. He is the author and editor of eight books, most recently Village of Painters (2006). His earlier book titled Hosay Trinidad: Muharram Performances in an Indo-Caribbean Diaspora (2003), won the Premio Pitre, awarded annually by the Center for Ethnohistory in Palermo, Sicily. His book South Asian Folklore: A Handbook was published by Greenwood Press in April 2006. In 2004-2005, he was a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in India, where he conducted fieldwork on itinerant scroll painters in rural West Bengal, the topic on which he will speak at the Library of Congress. This project will culminate with an exhibition at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe that opens on October 29, 2006. Korom received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006 to continue his work in this area.

Wednesday, October 4, 6:30-7:30 PM
Montpelier Room, 6th Floor, James Madison Building

AIDS Quilt with Washington Monument"What's in a Name?  AIDS, Vernacular Risk Perception and the Culture of Ownership," presented by Diane Goldstein, Professor of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Read the event flyer essay

View the webcast of this presentation Time 56:51

Since reports of the first cases of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s, contemporary, or "urban," legends about origins of the virus, modes of transmission, deliberate infection, withheld treatment, and minority genocide have proliferated. Told cross-culturally, AIDS legends recount HIV-filled needles in movie theatre seats, pinpricks in drugstore shelf condoms, semen in fast food, and HIV-positive sexual predators. Diane Goldstein explores the story-making activities that have surrounded the AIDS epidemic, focusing on the potential implications of legend discourse for public health. AIDS legends enable understandings of perceptions of risk, reveal local views of public health efforts, and highlight areas of health care and education that need to be improved.  AIDS narratives, however, do not simply articulate perceptions of disease realities, they also create those realities. Told within scientific and official sectors as well as lay communities, legends play a significant role in medical, legal, and educational responses to the disease and its management.  Goldstein explores how narrative constructs the way we interact with disease, creating cultural scripts for both personal and scientific decision-making.

An AIDS Quilt squareTo mark the recent designation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt as an American Treasure, and in honor of the work of the Names Project, this talk focuses specifically on the powerful relationship between names and AIDS in vernacular understandings of risk. AIDS legends focus heavily on names; names to scapegoat, names at risk, names hidden and names flaunted.   In this lecture, Goldstein explores one community's legendary association of AIDS with a single name, tracing vernacular notions of risk in the absence of pluralistic models of vulnerability.  Moving out from that case study, Goldstein explores the relationship between names and ownership, demonstrating the crucial role of vernacular artistry in AIDS interventions.

Diane Goldstein is Professor of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland and is cross-appointed to Memorial University's School of Medicine.  She is author of Once Upon A Virus: AIDS Legends and Vernacular Risk Perception (Utah State University Press 2004), co-editor (with Cindy Patton and Heather Worth) of a special issue of Sexuality Research and Social Policy entitled "Reckless Vectors: The Infecting 'Other' in HIV/AIDS Law" (2005) and editor of one of the earliest interdisciplinary anthologies on AIDS, entitled Talking AIDS: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (ISER Books 1991).  Diane has been extensively involved in AIDS priority-setting and policy-making initiatives over the last twenty years including a three year appointment to the Canadian National Planning and Priorities Forum for HIV/AIDS. Diane is currently President of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, member of the executive board of the American Folklore Society, and serves or has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of American Folklore, Folklore, Ethnologies, Contemporary Legend and The Journal of Applied Folklore.


Thursday, September 14, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm
Pickford Theater, 3rd floor, James Madison Building

Image: Book Cover of Cowboy Poetry "Cowboy Poetry: History, Origins, Influences, Forms." Presented by David Stanley, professor of English at Westminster College. Book Signing will follow.

Read the event flyer essay (PDF 2 pages, 404kb)

View the webcast of this presentation Time 1:03:15

David Stanley has been researching cowboy poetry for nearly twenty years. Cowboy poetry in the United States dates back to the period of the long-distance cattle drives from Texas to Kansas that followed the Civil War, and it has been a thriving and ever-changing tradition ever since. As a genre, it has been influenced by literary works--the Bible, the Odyssey, Shakespeare's plays, the works of the Beat Generation--by popular writers such as Robert W. Service and Rudyard Kipling, by Victorian popular culture and its fondness for schoolhouse and parlor recitations, by Hollywood cowboy films, by country-western music, and by political developments from the advent of homesteading and barbed wire in the nineteenth century to contemporary vegetarianism, environmentalism, and economic development associated with the "New West." David Stanley will discuss the history and development of this flourishing form of American culture.

Image: David Stanley

David Stanley is professor of English at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, where he teaches folklore, American literature, Native American studies, and environmental studies. He has done folklore fieldwork in Texas, Georgia, and throughout the American West, as well as in Argentina, Brazil, Mongolia, and France. He is editor of two books--"Cowboy Poets & Cowboy Poetry" and "Folklore in Utah"--and the recordings "Listening In: Utah Storytelling," "Cowboy Poetry Classics," and "Coalfield Tunes: Ethnic Music from Carbon County, Utah." He was formerly employed as a folklorist by the Utah Arts Council, where he produced festivals, concerts, publications, and exhibitions.

Thursday, August 3, 2006 from 12 noon - 1:30 PM
Mumford Room, LM 649, 6th Floor, James Madison Building

Image of Jamaican Maroons in 1907A Special Presentation: "Politics and Poetics: Fieldwork in Afghanistan and Jamaica" presented by Margaret Mills, Professor, Ohio State University Dept of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Center for Folklore Studies; and, Kenneth Bilby, Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution Dept of Anthropology

Read the event flyer essay (PDF 2 pages, 255kb)

View the webcast of this presentation Time 1:33:42

Image of Margaret Mills

"The Same River: Dilemmas and Challenges of Long-term Cultural Research in Conflict Zones and Failing States" presented by Margaret Mills. Margaret Mills first visited Afghanistan in 1969, while doing field archaeology and teaching high school English in Iran. The vibrancy of oral narrative and other performance traditions in the region inspired her career decision to study living verbal art in Persian language. She conducted two years of research for her dissertation on contemporary folktale performance in Persian-speaking Herat, in western Afghanistan, in 1974-1976. Afghanistan at the time was peaceful, uncolonized, rich in oral traditions, impoverished but making tentative progress in development as an unaligned state. The Marxist coup of 1978 and the ensuing anti-Soviet war, followed by civil war, created a sixteen-year hiatus in her contact with Afghan friends and associates. Two short return research visits, in 1994 and 1995, re-established her contacts with close friends from her first period of research but were followed by another seven-year separation during the period of Taliban dominance. Her Botkin lecture-discussion concerns long-term commitment to longitudinal cultural study and necessarily episodic presence in what became a war zone.

Image of Kenneth Bilby"Private Stories, Public Folklore, and Contested Histories in Jamaica: Taking the Long View with the Maroons" presented by Kenneth Bilby. Kenneth Bilby's first encounter with the Maroons of Jamaica was in 1977, when he arrived in the community of Moore Town. There he spent fourteen months undertaking a study of relations between Maroons and their Jamaican neighbors as part of his research for a master's degree in anthropology. After multiple return visits to Jamaica, he is as involved as ever with the Maroons and the implications of what he learned among them. Descendants of enslaved Africans who escaped from plantations, fought the British colonists, and won their freedom in 1739, the Maroons have survived as distinct ethnic groups to the present. Their heroic history inspired Toussaint L'Ouverture of Haiti, and in the 1930s led African American cultural icons Zora Neale Hurston and Katherine Dunham to carry out pioneering anthropological research among them. The Maroons have retained a rich, historically deep, and clearly distinctive oral culture. This presentation focuses on the complexities and challenges of working with an oral culture that has traditionally been concealed from outsiders, yet has gained in political significance in an era characterized by conflicting claims over cultural authenticity and ownership of the past.

Thursday, July 27, 12:00 noon
Pickford Theater, 3rd floor, James Madison Building

Musician playing a handmade instrument"Not the Same Old (Folk) Song and Dance: Field Recordings in the European Communities of the United States" presented by Matthew Barton

Read the event flyer essay (PDF 2 pages, 395kb)

View the webcast of this presentation Time 52:11

In the 1930s, Library of Congress fieldworkers recorded the folk music of non-English-speaking communities throughout the United States. There, they captured songs and styles that had died out in the lands of their birth, as well as emerging fusions of the ancient and modern. From the songs of a sacred Spanish mystery play performed in Texas to wild Polish wedding music played in Wisconsin, they preserved rare and beautiful music as much a part of American heritage as any from English-speaking communities. This talk focuses on rarely heard recordings from the European-American diaspora, including the music of older North American communities as well as the music of immigrants new to this country in the 1930s. Special attention will be given to Alan Lomax's 1938 fieldwork, which took him to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin to record music in French, German, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Finnish and other languages.

Matthew Barton worked as an assistant to Alan Lomax in the 1980s, and later as production coordinator of the Alan Lomax Collection album series on Rounder Records. More recently, he has worked with original Library of Congress field recordings for the American Folklife Center. He currently works in the Library's MBRS Sound Lab. He contributed essays to Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934-1997 (Routledge, NY: 2003).

Thursday, June 29, 12:00 noon
Dining Room A, 6th floor, James Madison Building

Image:  Linda Goss"Waking up the People" Presented by Linda Goss

Read the event flyer essay (PDF 2 pages, 315kb)

View the webcast of this presentation

Linda Goss has always been fascinated with stories. She is currently researching African-American family stories on a Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund award from the American Folklife Center. In her Botkin lecture, she discusses family storytelling traditions, and describes her ongoing research.

Goss is the "Official Storyteller" of Philadelphia. A pioneer of the contemporary storytelling movement, she was co-founder of "In the tradition. . ." the National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference, and The National Association of Black Storytellers, a founding member of Keepers of the Culture (a Philadelphia-area affiliate of NABS), and of Patchwork: a Storytelling Guild, the author of numerous books, and a contributor to numerous collections on African American storytelling. She has two Folkways recordings to her credit. She performs widely. She is the recipient of the 2003 Oracle Lifetime Achievement Award in Storytelling from the National Storytelling Network, and has received a grant as a master artist to work with an apprentice, through the PA Council on the Arts. She holds an undergraduate degree from Howard University, Washington, D.C. and a Masters degree from Antioch University. She is currently Artist-In-Residence at the Rosenbach Museum, and a featured artist in Philadelphia Folklore Project's Local Knowledge project.

Wednesday, May 31, 12:00 noon
Room 139, James Madison Building

Image:  Dr. Bryan Bachner"Facing the Music: Traditional Culture and Copyright" Presented by
Dr. Bryan Bachner

Read the event flyer essay

View the webcast of this presentation

To what extent should copyright law protect the use and exploitation of traditional culture belonging to indigenous communities? Today's copyright law sadly overlooks and, arguably, discriminates against the interests of the authors of indigenous or traditional musical works — including folk music. As a single example, copyright law asserts that a work must, in effect, be written down for it to be copyrightable; this works against traditional cultures that conventionally transmit their work orally. As a result, traditional and indigenous culture is frequently exploited for profit without any recognition going to the composers or communities who created the works. Dr. Bryan Bachner presents musical illustrations and discuss recent cases in South Africa and China that challenge the copyright law status quo; the South African case involves Zulu composer Solomon Linda's "Mbube,"an adaptation of an indigenous song that went on to world fame as both "Wimoweh" (recorded by The Weavers) and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (recorded by The Tokens).

Dr. Bryan Bachner was the first American to receive a PhD in Law from Wuhan University in China. His dissertation focused on a parallel question in the field of patent law and its impact upon the development of traditional Chinese medicine. For the last 15 years, Dr. Bachner served as an Associate Professor of Law at the City University of Hong Kong. He is currently Assistant Director of Legal Research at the Law Library of Congress and chief of the Eastern Law Division that covers the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The Legal Research Directorate provides legal research and reference services to the United States Congress, executive agencies and the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 5, 6:30pm
Room 119, Thomas Jefferson Building

Image: Dr. Daniel B. Botkin"The Folklore Behind Ecology, or Why Scientists in Ecology Need Help from Folklorists" Presented by Dr. Daniel B. Botkin

Read the event flyer essay (PDF 2 pages, 736kb)

View the webcast of this presentation

Our laws, policies, and the fundamental scientific ideas about nature derive from ancient myths and modern folklore. We "save" endangered species and manage our natural resources based on beliefs about a balance of nature that never existed and is continually disproved by scientific observations, but strangely still forms much of the basis of the science of ecology. This lecture addresses the speaker's view on how this came about, and why folklorists need to open a dialogue with environmental scientists.

Daniel Botkin is a scientist who studies life from a planetary perspective, a biologist who has helped solve major environmental issues, and a writer about nature. A frequent public speaker, Botkin brings an unusual perspective to his subject. His books and lectures show how our cultural legacy often dominates our perceptions and beliefs about scientific solutions to environmental problems. Botkin has been a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, since 1979, and serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center. Daniel Botkin is the son of Benjamin A. Botkin.

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