Solimar Otero, Associate Professor of English and a folklorist at Louisiana State University. My research centers on gender, sexuality, and spirituality in Afrolatino and Caribbean folklore, literature, and film. I am the author of Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World; and the co-editor of Yemoja: Gender, Sexuality, and Creativity in Latina/o and Afro-Atlantic Diasporas. I've received a Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund grant; a fellowship at the Harvard Divinity School’s Women’s Studies in Religion Program; and a Fulbright award. My current book project, Afrolatinx Religious Performance: Ritualizing Gender and Sexuality in Cuba, investigates Cuban Espiritismo.
The greatest challenges and opportunities for AFS and folklore studies occur in three broad areas: 1) communication, 2) reflection, and 3) collaboration. As a former Board Member, Convener for the Folklore Latino, Latinoamericano, y Caribeño Section, and Nominating Committee Chair, I have seen AFS struggle and grow. As President, I will work with you to make us better understood, more diverse, and connected to the world.
One of our “traditional” stumbling blocks is communicating what we do as folklorist to the world at large. Despite many attempts to improve our image, we are still perceived as a field that “folklorizes” the cultures we work with. As President, I will relay our message as one of advocacy and collaboration with expressive communities, widely and broadly.
A related opportunity we face is reflecting on diversity. Often, the communities we work with confront significant structural challenges: racism, poverty, xenophobia, homophobia, and sexism. Yet, only recently have practitioners in our field come to resemble our collaborators. AFS is now reflecting deeply on who we are becoming. As President, I will emphasize the central role of diversity in the creation of vision, goals, and leadership.
The third area of potential growth is collaboration between post-graduate and public cultural work, especially within the field of Alternative Academic careers (Alt-Ac). I feel that AFS and public folklorists are the natural leaders in this national discussion about emerging public futures. As President of AFS, I will strategize with institutions and communities to support and create Alt-Ac, post-graduate careers.