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AFS Review: Notes

AFS Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award Awarded to Dan Ben-Amos

Monday, December 08, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
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The AFS Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award is bestowed every year on a living senior scholar in recognition of outstanding scholarly achievement over the course of a career. Past recipients of the award are William Nicolaisen, Linda Degh, Don Yoder Richard Bauman, Henry Glassie, Michael Owen Jones, Wolfgang Mieder, and Lee Haring.

This year we honor Dan Ben-Amos, who, forty-three years ago, gave us five words that helped define our discipline for a new generation. Additionally, he edited two books which became foundational texts of the new folkloristics: Folklore: Performance and Communications (with Kenneth S. Goldstein) and Folklore Genres. In the latter, his concluding essay helped folklorists formulate their distinctions between analytic categories and ethnic genres.

However, we are not honoring a man whose contributions lay only in a bygone era of performance studies. Nor are his contributions only definitional or theoretical. Dan Ben-Amos is a leading authority on narrative, proverb and speech. From his Sweet Words: Storytelling Events in Benin, published in 1975, to his three volumes of Folk Tales of the Jews, published from 2006-2011 (and in many, many articles) Dan Ben-Amos has added immeasurably to our knowledge of both African and Jewish narrative traditions.

As a former recipient of this award has written, Dan Ben-Amos "is one of a small group who, between fifty and forty years ago, created our discipline in the pattern of its contemporary practice.” Dan Ben-Amos has been a presence in our field ever since. His career teaching folklore at the University of Pennsylvania stretches back almost half a century, to 1967, also the year he earned his doctorate in folklore at Indiana University. And he has been an enduring presence in our society, serving as a program chairman and on the Executive Board and always gracing us with his learned and erudite (to quote another of the nominators) presence. Furthermore in his activities at the international level, Dan Ben-Amos has enriched the reputation of our society abroad.

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American Folklore SocietySister Society: SIEF
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