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AFS Review: Notes

International Attendees: Welcome and Guide to the 2019 AFS Annual Meeting

Friday, September 20, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman

By Leah Lowthorp (International Issues Committee) ––

On behalf of the AFS Committee on International Issues, I sincerely welcome those of you coming to the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society from outside the U.S. 

Below are some brief thoughts to help you navigate the meeting and the program, particularly if this is your first AFS meeting. 

The AFS Annual Meeting is a friendly gathering. The atmosphere is generally informal and welcoming, and even if you are attending for the first time (and even if this is your first time in the U.S.), you should not hesitate to introduce yourself to people. AFS is a relatively small and intimate conference; it is easy to meet senior scholars, members of the Executive Board, Fellows, and others who have been involved with these meetings for a long time. You will be sure to find new colleagues with similar interests. At AFS, strangers do not remain strangers for long!

At the panels and meetings during the day, participants are eager to exchange ideas and will be particularly interested in learning about the study of folklore in other countries. Please be aware that some people prefer to sit through an entire session of papers, whereas others move in and out to see individual papers in different sessions.  Evening and lunchtime events offer other opportunities to meet and chat with new friends and colleagues. In past years, many newcomers commented that they were surprised how much fun AFS was. They marveled at how relaxed people are and how they seem to truly enjoy spending time with each other. Don’t be surprised, for example, by the nightly musical jam sessions! And, of course, feel free to join in.

In recent years AFS has made a special effort to expand its own international horizons, welcoming more and more scholars from abroad and developing formal initiatives with folklore societies around the world. Many sessions at the 2019 meeting reflect issues in other countries, and you will find an increasing focus on global and transcultural concerns of all sorts. 

There are also many opportunities throughout the meeting, beyond concurrent and plenary sessions, including lectures, receptions, mixers, musical events, trivia nights, and dance parties; you’ll find these listed under “Other Special Events” in the program book. Make sure you check some of these out; they provide opportunities to meet colleagues and to continue in more relaxed settings the conversations started in the panels during the day.

You can plan your meeting in advance by browsing the online program or program book pdf.  In particular, look for these special events, which are open to all, and a great way to meet other folklorists and to get more involved in the field and the Society:

1. We encourage everyone to attend the Opening Ceremonies and Welcome Receptions on Wednesday evening, which are an excellent opportunity to greet friends, old and new. If you are new to the meeting, consider coming earlier for Get to Know the Annual Meeting, a brief orientation to AFS and the annual meeting with members of staff, the Mentoring Committee, the Cultural Diversity Committee, and past Executive Board members. Learn what to expect from the meeting, network with other newcomers and AFS members, and learn more about AFS projects and what AFS can do for you (Wednesday, 4:00-5:00 pm, Harborview, 2nd floor).

2. AFS Section Business Meetings: There are more than thirty AFS Sections, serving as gathering places and forums within the Society for people with common interests in the field. All sections welcome new members, and invite prospective members to attend their annual business meeting to learn more about their interests and activities. See the AFS Annual Meeting program for specific meeting times and locations. 

3. The Festival of Ideas will gather conference attendees from near and far to get to know one another and share meaningful conversations about issues that arise from our community-driven work. As folklorists know, face-to-face informal exchange is where some of the deepest learning and relationship building happens. Drawing from the interests of participants, we will divide up into smaller conversations, and explore the important issues, dilemmas, strategies, and experiences we encounter in our practice. Thursday, 6:00–7:30 pm, in Harborview, 2nd floor.

3. The Festival of Ideas Reception will kick off and run alongside the Festival of Ideas. While the Festival of Ideas provides a means of sharing meaningful conversations about specific issues that arise from our community-driven work, the reception presents the opportunity to enjoy our own community of past, present and future laborers in the field of folklore. This is a great opportunity to connect over common ground with public and community folklorists from Maryland and around the world. This party is brought to you by the AFS Local Planning Committee, the MA in Cultural Sustainability at Goucher College, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the AFS Public Programs Section, and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage — if you've ever worked with (or hoped to work with) these programs, be sure to come say hello.

The reception will include a cash bar and light refreshments, but plan to grab a more substantial bite before or after the event.  Thursday, 6:00–7:30 pm, Atrium, 2nd floor

4. Cultural Diversity Committee Brown Bag Welcome Lunch: The over-arching goal of the AFS Cultural Diversity Committee is to find ways to diversify attendance at the AFS annual meeting and to diversify the membership of the Society. This brown-bag lunch provides an opportunity to meet members of the Cultural Diversity Committee, to learn about the issues they are currently addressing, and to add your voice to the conversation about what we can all do to reimagine a more inclusive, activist folklore theory, practice, and Society for the 21st century. Please bring your own lunch. Friday, 12:45-1:45 pm, Columbia, 2nd floor

5. 05-01 Mentorship: Breakout Sessions for Mentoring Conversations: Individuals need mentors at many stages in their professional lives. In addition to AFS's Mentoring Program stewarded by the AFS Mentoring Committee, which pairs mentors and mentees for conversations that develop over the course of the Annual Meeting and beyond, this session is an informal opportunity to come together around various conversation points with facilitators prepared for breakout conversations including:

  • New Professional
  • Mid-Career
  • Contract-Based Employment
  • Engaged Retirement
  • Folklorists of Color
  • Mentoring through #MeToo
  • MENtoring (Mentoring Men) 
  • and others that emerge during the breakout session 

Participants may stay in a single conversation or dip into several breakout groups as they prefer. Ideas raised here may help guide future mentoring efforts. Bring your mid-morning snack/beverage of choice and join us for this casual yet meaningful conversation. Friday, 10:15 am–12:15 pm, Harborview, 2nd floor

Safe travels and we look forward to seeing you in Baltimore!


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