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JAF 125/496: A Word from your Co-Editors
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7/5/2012 at 3:23:14 PM GMT
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JAF 125/496: A Word from your Co-Editors
We the editors of JAF are excited about issue 496.  Each of the principal pieces in the issue—those by Carl Lindahl, by Fei-wen Liu, by Danusha Goska and by the team of Margaret Duffy, Janis Teruggi Page, and Rachel Young—came to us independently.  They come from very different scholars writing about very different situations. Yet, as these works came through the pipeline, we quickly came to see that they all addressed similar issues, i.e., that they spoke to each other in interesting ways.  And so, we decided to bundle them into a single issue—one that we came to call in-house the TRAUMA ISSUE.  Open your JAF and you’ll find folklorists addressing messy, painful situations and exploring the ways in which people represent trauma in their expressive culture.  Folklore becomes the tool, or the victim, of politics, and ordinary people stake out claims for themselves—for the validity of their experience or the cogency of their viewpoints—through the stories they tell, the jokes they pass along, the songs they sing, the art they make. Of course, representing trauma can be traumatic.  And we wondered what our readers would think of the materials: how many wounds can a single issue open?  But then we thought of Jim’s wry warning in our opening issue as co-editors, a phrase proverbial among newspapermen, that we intended to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  And we said "Heck, let’s see what they say.”  So now it’s your turn.  Use this space to comment on these contributions to our field, to agree or disagree with their findings, to offer supporting examples or counters—to tell us what you think.

We have asked Tim Tangherlini to lead off.  Tim has written his own great book, appropriately entitled Talking Trauma (University of Mississippi Press, 1998) and he will no doubt have valuable perspectives on these pieces.

7/5/2012 at 3:25:06 PM GMT
Posts: 1
Trauma—or more accurately, traumatic experience—often becomes part and parcel of an individual’s presentation of self and their interpretation of their surroundings. Tradition offers a deep reservoir of culturally meaningful expressive forms that allow individuals a means to explore these experiences and to share them with others in ways that are constructive both for the individual and the cultural group. Lindahl’s exploration of the storytelling of Katrina survivors provides an important view into the conflicting processes of storytelling, from that of the media to that of what Lindahl labels "outsiders”, and "survivors.” While one might quibble with his characterizations of legend, rumor and personal experience narrative, the materials that have been assembled in the database—an impressive effort mobilizing folklorists and community members alike—represent a very important collection of accounts of experiences during and in the aftermath of Katrina. The database represents a new direction in folklore research, where stories of recent events, collected from very large numbers of people, relating to a single episode (or series of episodes), are made readily accessible to a broad group of researchers—computational methods that help discover latent patterns in the underlying data (an approach that Lindahl implements in a preliminary fashion largely through keyword searches) may help develop our understanding of storytelling and Katrina. One can only imagine the proliferation of these types of databases in the context of other traumatic and media-mediated events such as the "Arab Spring,” the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the tsunami of South East Asia, the Iranian uprisings, and the Holocaust (see the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive, along with more sophisticated techniques (see that can assist with this type of analysis of "big data” collections. The constructed nature of media-mediated experiences comes through in the study by Duff, Page and Young of forwarded emails concerning negative images of President Obama. As they note, this type of electronically mediated community making can give voice to an experience of shared anger and worry—in this case, a fear that Obama’s presidency threatens "true America.” In Liu’s article, narrative traumatic experiences emerges in the dialogic performance of bridal lament—an intriguing parallel to the dialogic fieldwork collection methods presented in Lindahl’s piece. Indeed, the performance of kuge described by Liu recapitulates many of the categories discovered by Lindahl and his group in the narratives of personal trauma collected in the aftermath of Katrina. There is a lot to discuss here—from methods for collecting personal experience narratives regarding traumatic experiences to data storage methods and the ethical dimensions related to such collections, from the role that narrative plays in organizing, evaluating and aligning experience with ideology, to the role that tradition plays as a deep cultural resource, from the role that the media plays in imposing and interrupting local narrative, to the role that personal narrative can play in challenging the power structures in which our lives are necessarily embedded. Have at it.

5/2/2013 at 2:02:27 PM GMT
Posts: 1
Trauma Follow Up
There are several kinds of trauma that come to mind (outside the context of natural disaster) such as community violence, terrorism and battlefield-gladiator warfare. Each of these categories (or comparisons) have individual causes and identities. On the other hand, there is the broadly defined "we want our country back" movement that compares to the "we want to move our country forward" movement. The commonality I see in all the above themes a sense/feeling that society (we) (#1) are experiencing a loss of control; (#2) government is vying for more control;(#3) societal structure is deteriorating; (#4) religion is being subverted by the above turmoil. Is it coincidental/delusional that most of the above (seem to me to be) categories related to getting along with one another?

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