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AFS Review: Notes

October 2018 Letter to Members from AFS President Dorothy Noyes

Wednesday, October 10, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Evangeline Mee
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By Dorothy Noyes (President, American Folklore Society) –––

Dear colleagues,

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone very soon in Buffalo! I want to highlight a few things about the meeting.

First of all, our local arrangements committee has done a stellar job of connecting us with people, places, and happenings around New York State, from Hodinöhsö:ni artists to legendary public historian Mike Frisch to the workers of the Erie Canal, to say nothing of two exceptional dance bands. In keeping with this grounding, the meeting theme comes straight out of Buffalo––"No Illusions"––with the folkloristic addition of "No Exclusions." Engaging the real, in full. So there's an obvious complementarity with one of the threads in last year's meeting, the Fake News panels, now hot off the presses in a special issue of Journal of American Folklore. One finding of these papers is that, at the community level, local knowledge and interpersonal interaction can trump the growing authority of viral nonsense. But how can this effect be scaled up? To help us think about this global challenge, I invited P. Sainath, the journalist who won Asia's Ramon Magsaysay Prize for his groundbreaking reporting on the skyrocketing rates of farmer suicides in rural India, to be the President's Invited Speaker on Saturday. Today Sainath edits a remarkable digital resource, The People's Archive of Rural India, and contributes his long experience as a reporter to the design of social justice initiatives. Given that many AFS members are concerned with bringing public attention to community issues and several have journalistic experience, it might be time to revisit the possible synergies of folklore and journalism. Anyone interested in forming a working group is invited to a brown bag meeting at Saturday lunch in Room 105.

Second, our New York committee, the AFS staff, and our various sections have created an exceptional array of professionalization opportunities within the meeting. Having served recently on one of the “Next PhD” committees cropping up at every university with a grad school, I've learned how far ahead of the "alt-ac" curve our field is––which is not to say there's not more to be done. Still, we should notice that we're doing rather well. Please check out and take advantage of the rich opportunities afforded by a society as professionally diverse as ours. In addition to our ongoing mentoring opportunities for students and new professionals, one component I'd like to build in future is mentoring for mid-career and senior folklorists. While our skills-based workshops are adapted to people at any level, we could do more to acknowledge that it is not only new professionals who need spaces of reflection and counsel. (Suggestions welcome.) In a related initiative, soon the AFS Committee on Contingent Workforce Concerns will launch a survey to learn about the experiences of US folklorists working in institutionally vulnerable positions. Please watch for the announcement and help us to start a conversation on how AFS can better support our members in a changing economy.

This year we've premiered draft Guidelines for Accessible Presentations, and while that may sound bureaucratic, I urge you to read them and think about effective communication within our meetings. Our many members who have lost some hearing in their years of intensive concert attendance will tell you how important it is to use the mic when you present––as well as to speak clearly, explain insider assumptions and terms, and perhaps provide supporting visuals. Some of us have evident disabilities. Others are students and community members attending their first scholarly meeting, disciplinary outsiders who don't know folklore's jargon or history, and non-native speakers of English. We need to reach all of ourselves and our newcomers to sustain the vitality of our field. 

As always, we strive to continually improve our efforts to build and support a comfortable and welcoming environment for all attendees. Our Policy on Appropriate Behavior provides some guidelines for navigating this territory, reminding us that our meeting, which sometimes feels like a family reunion, remains a professional gathering. The Cultural Diversity Committee continues to work towards building inclusion in the field, this year with important sessions on allyship, curriculum, and more. In addition, please note the AFS-organized session on "Folklorists and #MeToo" and the related activities of the Women's Section—all are invited.

Finally, we are continuing to experiment with the scheduling and formats of both the Time of Remembrance and the Candidates' Forum. No ideal solution is yet in sight for either, but we're trying and we welcome your feedback. Please attend both sessions in order to honor folklore's past and build folklore's future!

Thanks to all of you for your contributions to making this wonderful thing happen. See you soon.






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