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AFS Review: Reports

Report on the 2012 Annual Meeting

Monday, November 12, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman

The AFS’s 123rd annual meeting, on the theme of "The Continuity and Creativity of Culture,” took place on October 27-27, 2012, at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana—the location of AFS’s last New Orleans annual meeting in 1975.

Approximately 800 people registered for the event, making it the largest AFS annual meeting in recent years (surpassed only by the Society’s Centennial meetings in 1988 and 1989, which drew attendance in the mid-800s).

The full 2012 Program has now been posted to the 2012 Annual Meeting page at; you can download the 155-page pdf to find all the abstracts, general meeting information, and indices, as well as the schedule that had been previously available online.

In addition to their work to review submissions for the meeting program, our 2012 annual meeting committee—the members of which live throughout the state—did a wonderful job of creating their own tours and sessions on the arts and culture of the city and region, and on the social, economic, and political issues surrounding cultural survival, resilience, continuity, and transformation anywhere—the theme they designed for the meeting. Highlights included:

  • the preconference "Saints and Sinners” tour of the city led by Nick Spitzer
  • the local guide, "Making the Big Easy a Little Easier: Music Food and the Built Environs Near AFS 2012,” by Frank de Caro, Rosan Jordan and Nick Spitzer
  • the opening plenary presentation by New Orleans musician and jazz educator Michael White of Xavier University;
  • sessions on Mardi Gras (04-02); HBO’s Tremé (05-07); "Culture and Catastrophe” with Chinese folklorists (13-08); Louisiana’s endangered coastal Native American Communities (18-04); and New Orleans musicians and street ritual performers (20-04).

In the past year, AFS sponsored the work of a committee investigating the contributions our field can make to historic preservation policy in the US. This Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy Working Group assembled a pre-conference tour of New Orleans neighborhoods rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, and more than a half-dozen sessions on folklore and historic preservation work, policy, and issues.

As part of AFS’s new Oral History Project, managed by the Utah State University Library special collections division, AFS re-launched a former annual meeting custom: a public interview of a senior folklorist, recorded for placement in our Society’s archives at Utah State. This year, Ray Cashman interviewed Henry Glassie. Along similar lines, Pravina Shukla again coordinated a "Talking Folklore” session, a follow-up to last year’s session with academic folklorists, this time featuring folklorists who have worked in the public sector. The transcript of this session, like last year’s, will go into the AFS oral history collection.

The AFS Cultural Diversity Committee made efforts to reach out to new and returning meeting participants, coordinating its Open Meeting and later, its Brown Bag, with the AFS Executive Board’s Welcome Breakfast for First-Time Attendees, International Participants, and Stipend Recipients, as well a session on Chicano/a and Latino/a performance art, sponsored by the Chicano/a Section and the Folklore Latino/a, Latinoamericano/a, y Caribeño/a Section.

Our colleagues from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico City joined us again in a session (12-13) of presentations on the field of anthropology in Mexico—the field under whose umbrella much of folklore work is done in Mexico.

There were several sessions on folklore and folklore study in China and elsewhere in Asia, including the presentation by Beijing folklorist Gao Bingzhong on intangible culture and modern ideology (13-08), several panels sponsored by our Eastern Asia Folklife section, and an AFS-sponsored forum with presentations by eight US folklorists who have been working in China (20-08).

Sections sponsored sessions too numerous to acknowledge here; check each Section in the Index of Events in the 2012 Program for a full account.

Tributes to five colleagues who passed away during the past year were read as part of the Time of Remembrance during the Opening Ceremony: Charlie Bergengren (remembrance prepared by Jonathan David and read by Diane Goldstein), Matt Bradley (Lisa Gabbert and Andy Kolovos), Tristram Potter Coffin (Dan Ben-Amos), John Miles Foley (Claire Schmidt), and Peter Narváez (Diane Tye). The text of these memorials has been added to In Memoriam in the Folklore Wiki. In addition, a Memorial board and table was located in the AFS annual meeting registration area for other tributes to any of our departed friends and colleagues.

Fifteen publishers active in folklore studies, as well as several AFS sections and other organizations, presented, distributed, and sold their work throughout the meeting; see page 131 of the 2012 Program for the complete list.


  • The opening evening plenary session, programmed by the 2012 annual meeting committee, featured "How New Orleans Traditional Jazz is a Metaphor for American Life,” by New Orleans musician and jazz educator Michael White of Xavier University.
  • The AFS Fellows’ Francis Lee Utley Memorial Lecture, "Fried Chicken, Quilts, and Hurricanes: Reflections on Fieldwork in Louisiana,” was given by Fellows President Patricia A. Turner of the University of California at Davis.
  • Debora Kodish, founder of the Philadelphia Folklore Project, delivered "Cultivating Folk Arts and Social Change,” the Presidential Invited Plenary Address that closed the annual meeting on Saturday afternoon.

Special Lectures/Events

  • Donald Cosentino of UCLA delivered the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section’s Don Yoder Lecture in Religious Folklife: "Why Did Gede Let This Happen?: Catastrophe and Theodicy in 21st Century Haitian Vodou.”
  • Michael J. Bell of the Massachusetts Historical Society presented the Music and Song Section’s Phillips Barry Lecture, "’I Am Going to Print a Book of Plays’: Francis James Child's Road to the Ballad.”
  • Sponsored by the Chicano/a Section and the Folklore Latino/a, Latinoamericano/a, y Caribeño/a Section, New Orleans performance artist José Torres Tama presented a performance piece, "Aliens, Immigrants and Other Evildoers.”
  • 2012 is the bicentennial of the initial publication of Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmärchen, and the Folk Narrative Section sponsored the Stith Thompson Lecture, "The Crack In the Mirror: The Grimms as Storytellers to the World,” by Kay Stone of the University of Winnipeg, as well as several sessions on the Grimms’ work and influence.
  • The Storytelling Section sponsored a pre-conference walking tour, "Spirits of New Orleans: A Backstage Tour of a Haunted City,” led by professional ghost-story tour guide Bloody Mary (Millan).
  • The film Beasts of the Southern Wild was shown Thursday evening; director/co-writer Benh Zeitlin, associate producer Nathan Harrison, and crew members Alana Pryor Ackerman, Crockett Doob, and Eliza Zeitlin were on hand to answer questions about the production.

Professional Development Workshops

  • The Archives Section offered two pre-conference workshops, on digital audio field recording, and on preparing and preserving digital fieldwork materials.
  • The Education Section and Local Learning sponsored the 19th Annual Folklore and Education Workshop, "Folk Arts in the Classroom: An Arts Integration Model,” which highlighted approaches to incorporating folk artists and the interview process into arts-integrated classroom residencies.
  • The Public Programs Section sponsored a two-part workshop on "Leadership, Succession, and Transition in Public Sector Folklore,” to help public folklorists identify goals and challenges, and plan for support in developing leadership and managing periods of transition.
  • The second Public Programs Idea Fair, sponsored by the Public Programs Section, provided a forum for soliciting comments and advice from colleagues aimed at improving programs/projects and finding other folklorists or organizations with whom to collaborate.
  • The Public Programs Section also sponsored a workshop on producing and promoting digital media-based fieldwork, in theory and practice, entitled "Digital Media-Based Fieldwork Meets Public and Social Internet.”
  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with AFS, sponsored the "Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World” Workshop, a day-long, pre-conference workshop for invited, first-time authors to work closely with editors and mentoring folklore experts on their book projects.

Poster Exhibition

The 2012 AFS Annual Meeting Poster Exhibition was on display on Thursday and Friday. This year, posters focused on the annual meeting theme, "The Continuity and Creativity of Culture," and on "Historical and Comparative Studies in Folklore.” The poster exhibition, curated by Jason Baird Jackson of Indiana University, opened with a reception during which Debra Lattanzi Shutika (George Mason University) and Dorothy Noyes (The Ohio State University) presented their comments on the poster presentations.

Diamond Presentations

The number of Diamond presentations continues to rise since the format was introduced at the 2010 Annual Meeting; this year, 50 participants made Diamond presentations, many in sessions dedicated to the format, and some in sessions with papers on related themes. Diamond presentations are short, formalized presentations structured by time and images: each individual Diamond presentation is seven minutes long and presents 21 slides that are set to advance automatically every 20 seconds; the presentation is allowed additional time for discussion.

Information Sessions

Time and space was reserved to allow annual meeting participants to learn more about: issues in libraries, archives, museums, and other collections of folklore (Ask an Archivist!, sponsored by the Archives and Libraries Section); publishing (Meet the Editors); participating in the Independent Folklorists’ Section and discussion forum; and using the AFS website.

Opportunities for Students

A complete round-up of opportunities for students was compiled and distributed prior to the meeting; see p. xvi of the 2012 Program, or Highlights included:

  • A graduate student lounge, sponsored by the Graduate Student Section and AFS.
  • The Breakfast of (Folklore) Champions, with Barry Jean Ancelet, Frank de Caro, Carl Lindahl, and Sharon Sherman.
  • Several social events, including receptions sponsored by the AFS Fellows, the Public Programs Section, and AFS.

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