The Summer 2012 JAF, issue no. 497 is one that we are very proud of. Since we are on the count-down to issue 500, we have wanted to use these issues to mark in some way the history of the discipline and the history of JAF within the enterprise of folklore studies. So you will find this and the next several issues cluster around themes. This issue’s theme is African American folklore, with a fresh look at one of the most significant scholars of African American culture in our discipline’s history, Zora Neale Hurston. Teresa N. Washington offers new insights into Hurston’s masterpiece and its relation to the body of traditions that she terms African American orature. Tom Green contributes a remarkable piece on a topic he has carefully documented over decades: a particular variety of martial art which has its roots in African American communities and has spread and evolved over time and space both inside and outside the penal system. John Laudun takes a close, reflexive look at the genre of "talking shit” in rural Louisiana and describes the relations between one raconteur and one folklorist as they developed the kind of relation of trust that so much of our discipline’s best fieldwork is based on.
We also début in this issue a feature of the JAF that we originally planned to add as a vital component of our co-editorship, a "piece on practice.” The idea of such pieces is for public folklorists to share their experiences and provide models or case studies that other folklorists might like to learn about. In this case, we were fortunate to have J. Akuma-Kalu Njoku write about his work in developing and sustaining Igbo-American identity in the contemporary United States. Njoku’s experiences and insights provide another lens through which to view the study of African American culture, one focusing on new generations of African immigrants and their creative acts to achieve a sense of community identity in a new country. We are planning other such Practice Pieces in the future, and we are anxious to hear what you think of this component of the JAF. If you have any ideas for a Practice Piece you’d like to contribute, we’d love to hear from you! Practice Pieces, like Creative Writing pieces, are subject to the same referee process used for standard articles.
We inherited a pool of excellent reviews from our predecessors, and among these were some more extensive review essays that Kati Szego commissioned in her time as Sound Recordings review editor. We have the privilege to print in this issue Christopher J. Smith’s overview of Irish traditional music recordings, and Timothy Wise’s survey of recorded yodeling. These are exciting pieces with a great wealth of detail that we think can serve as sources for readers’ research, or for planning courses, or for general background reading. We hope you enjoy them and we send our thanks to the authors and to Kati for having brought them to us.
--Thomas DuBois and James P. Leary editors, Journal of American Folklore
It seems there is no AFS discussion group dedicated to African American or Black Studies – my major area of research and interest., As the most recent issue of the Journal of American Folklore concentrates on African American folklore, I may perhaps draw AFS membership attention to the forthcoming BLACK EUROPE:
Interest can be registered now at no cost for news, updates and subscription details by e-mail to
stating “I want to be kept informed of the BLACK EUROPE project”.
-Rainer E. Lotz-