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Phyllis May-Machunda
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Phyllis May-Machunda, Professor and former Chair, American Multicultural Studies, Minnesota State University Moorhead. Former Curator, Smithsonian Institution Folklife Programs. MA & PhD, Folklore & Ethnomusicology, Indiana University; BMus (Voice) with Honors/ K-12 teaching certificate, University of Iowa. Research interests: African American culture, performance, play, women’s & children's folklore; immigrant cultures/traditions in US; antiracist, multicultural, & social justice education; disability studies. Awards include National Endowment for the Arts Arts Management Fellowship; Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship; (Archibald) Bush Leadership Fellowship; and Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship with Smithsonian Center of Folklife & Cultural Heritage. Grants review panelist for NEA, NEH, & numerous state folklife/arts programs.

Like many AFS members, I teach outside a folklore program.  Therefore, I infuse folklore into the multicultural courses I teach AND I engage in public folklore with the local community.  I love folklore as an inherently multicultural, interdisciplinary field of inquiry which explores rich questions central to our existences as creative and adaptable human beings grounded in tradition. Folklore’s primary focus has been the study of interesting (or exotic) others, without simultaneously continuing to reflect on constructs which shape our disciplinary lenses. As a field, folklore seems invisible to or to stand outside some of today’s conversations. Currently, several significant identities (race, class, ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion, age and citizenship status) are arenas of contestation in the US and worldwide. Public folklore and folklore and education actually sit near the frontlines of these complex and intersectional conversations and yet are not driving our field.  My contribution to the Executive Board would be both to represent these conversations and work to deepen critical and social justice conversations. Exploring concepts of power, resilience, and social justice, which underlie these multifaceted conversations and our disciplinary relationship to central issues facing identity communities-- such as immigration, segregation, social inequalities, violence and historical trauma-- must be an integral part of our future praxis, and could better integrate knowledge shared by community scholars and gained by public folklorists, and folklore educators into the field.  As a result of ongoing reflections, the Society might better attract and maintain a more diverse, equitable, and vigorous membership.




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