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AFS Review: Notes

“The Role of 'Creating Spaces of Possibility' in Cultural Continuity" (AFS 2012 Diamond Session)

Thursday, February 7, 2013   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
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by Betty J. Belanus (Smithsonian Institution)

Our diamond session took place on October 25, 2012, and included seven presentations (see the list of participants and topics below), with a discussant. The panel formed after chair Betty Belanus posted an inquiry on Publore, seeking to organize a Diamond Session. After a discussion via email, the group decided to use "creating spaces of possibility” as an overall theme. Although the presentations covered a wide spectrum of topics, including festivals and other public programs, material culture studies, and web site development, this theme worked well to pull the session together and stimulated an interesting discussion, which the participants would like to continue with fellow folklorists.

The term "spaces of possibility" has been used by education researchers, spiritual advisors, game designers, and feng shui experts, among others. In an interview with Libyan-American poet Khaled Mattawa, the term "[creating] a space of possibility" was used to describe the imaginative "space" Libyan writers created to help their fellow artists and countrymen express their feelings during and after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011. Participants of this diamond session found that the term has great potential as a useful tool in analyzing a wide range of work in public sector and academic folklore. Each of the presentations illustrated how folklorists work with community members, folk artists, festival participants, web developers and others to create "spaces”literal or figurative–which invite interaction, foster better understanding, open new worlds, and expand dialogue between groups.

Following discussant Gregory Hansen's comments, a lively discussion ensued. In addition to discussing how each of the presentations illustrated the theme "spaces of possibility,” Gregory's comments prompted a fruitful discussion about Diamond Sessions in general. It was agreed that this type of session works well at AFS meetings, but that a theme, even one as encompassing as ours, should be an organizing principle.

Following the session, some of the participants agreed that they would like to record and post their presentations, with the dual hopes of showing how versatile and interesting this type of presentation can be, and stimulating a continued dialogue around the theme of "spaces of possibility.” The AFS web site, thus, can become a new "space of possibility” to broaden the discussion.

Jon Kay, Traditional Arts Indiana, the most tech savvy among us, offers his presentation "The Walking Sticks of John Schoolman: Creating a Space for Interaction.” You can watch the presentation via YouTube or through downloading this version from

Due to sensitive material, photo permission issues, and time restraints, not all of the participants will be able to post their presentations, but we hope in the next month or so, three to four more of the presentations will follow.

Other presenters and topics included:

Betty J. Belanus, Smithsonian Institution and Lauren Lauzon, George Mason University, "The 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Wales Program 'Wall' as a Space of Possibility”

Douglas Manger, Heritage Works, "Redefining Cultural Parameters in a Small Texas Town”

Rebecca Snetselaar, Nevada Arts Council, "Culture on Parade: the Hispanic International Day Parade of Nevada”

Teri Klassen, Indiana University, "Continuity and Relevance in Mid-1900 Southwestern Tennessee Quiltmaking”

Jeanne Harrah Johnson, University of Nevada, Reno, "The Burning Man Festival Crosses the Boundaries of Place to Create its Community and Identity"

Cristina Diaz-Carrera, Smithsonian Institution, "Creating Space of Possibility on the Web: Colombia Program Website Planning"


Lorraine Walsh Cashman says...
Posted Monday, March 11, 2013
Teri Klassen's presentation, "Continuity and Relevance in Mid-1900s Southwestern Tennessee Quiltmaking" is now available on YouTube. See

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