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The Inaugural David Buchan Lecture
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When: 11/19/2015
6:30 PM
Where: King's College Conference Center, University of Aberdeen

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The Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen has established a distinguished lecture series - The David Buchan Lecture - named in honor of the influential Aberdeen-born ballad and contemporary legend scholar. This annual event places Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the university calendar and will appeal to a wide audience. It will be held Thursday, 19 November, 2015, 6:30pm, at King's College Conference Centre, University of Aberdeen (Scotland).

The inaugural David Buchan Lecture will be given by distinguished folklorist, Professor Diane Goldstein, director of the Folklore Institute and chair of the department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University, the leading institution in the field. Goldstein, who specializes in medical folklore and belief, will offer a talk on medical epidemic legends and their significance to modern healthcare practice. It is entitled “Recycled Stories: Health Legends, Epidemics and the Politics of Risk.” Goldstein has served as president of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Contemporary Legend Research.


As part of community discourse about the nature of disease, legends provide powerful information about cultural understandings of disease and illness. Though fascinating, intriguing, and often frightening, health legends do more than merely entertain. They warn and inform, articulate notions of risk, provide political commentary on public health actions, and offer insight into the relationship between cultural and health truths. When taken seriously, with respect for the narratives and their tellers, health 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. Health 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 disease and its management. This talk will explore legends concerning several epidemics and will demonstrate the importance of that information for public health.

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