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Michael Dylan Foster
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Michael Dylan Foster, Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Davis

PhD, Japanese, Stanford University; MA, Asian Studies, UC Berkeley; BA, English, Wesleyan University. Previous employment: Indiana University, Folklore and Ethnomusicology (2008-16); UC Riverside, Comparative Literature (2003-2007). My research concerns folklore/folkloristics in Japan; monsters and the supernatural; intersections of folklore, literature, and popular culture; festival, ritual, UNESCO, Intangible Cultural Heritage. Author of The Book of Yōkai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore (2015) and Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yōkai (2009), which won the 2009 Chicago Folklore Prize. Co-editor (with Jeffrey Tolbert) The Folkloresque: Reframing Folklore in a Popular Culture World (2016) and (with Lisa Gilman) UNESCO on the Ground: Local Perspectives on Intangible Cultural Heritage (2015). Service includes: Chair, AFS Annual Meeting Committee (Bloomington 2011); Chair, AFS Committee on International Issues (2012-15); Member, Committee on International Issues (2010-12); Folklore Society of Japan Special Committee for International Exchange and Special Committee for Preparation for the International Federation of Folklore Societies; Editor, Journal of Folklore Research (2014-17)

More than any other discipline, folkloristics has the potential to bring people of diverse cultures and backgrounds together in fruitful conversation, and to provide forums for sharing ideas within (and between) communities and classrooms. This is urgent during the current moment of political conservatism, ethnic tensions, and income inequality. The greatest challenge facing AFS is also its greatest opportunity: to increase the relevance and impact of folkloristics within the public sphere and the academy.

Non-folklorists sometimes see folklore studies as entrenched in older methodologies and subjects, but we know that it is a radically innovative and interdisciplinary field that provides tools for understanding diverse expressive cultures, historical events, and contemporary media. It is up to folklorists to engage in public discourse on vital current issues. There are many avenues through which this can be performed, but if elected to the AFS Executive Board, I would work particularly toward making AFS even more actively involved internationally. Already many AFS members come from countries outside North America or, like myself, conduct research abroad. The diversity of ideas created through formal and informal international exchange inspires theoretical and methodological discoveries that benefit the field. Especially during a time of mass immigration, global connectedness and digital information flow, it is imperative that folklorists actively use our on-the-ground experiences to advance theory and policy concerning refugee issues, tourism, intangible cultural heritage, intellectual property, UNESCO, etc. As a Board member, I would draw on my own work in Asia and the US to foster more participation from scholars whose interests transcend national borders, and to advance AFS involvement in global cultural discussions. Deep engagement with international issues is one of many ways AFS can help folkloristics become a twenty-first century discipline with broad public and academic impact.


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