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American Folklore Society Announces 2015 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize Recipient

Wednesday, October 28, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Shannon K. Larson
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At its recent annual meeting in Long Beach, California, the American Folklore Society (AFS) named prominent American folklorist Maida Owens of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as the 2015 recipient of its prestigious Benjamin A. Botkin Prize.

The Botkin Prize is given each year by the AFS and its Public Programs Section in the name of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975) to recognize lifetime achievement in public folklore. Botkin—eminent New Deal-era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938-1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress from 1942 to 1945—has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.

In its report, the 2015 Botkin Prize Committee praised the outstanding contribution of this year’s awardee, noting: “Ms. Owens, who currently serves as Director of the Folklife Program at the Louisiana Division of the Arts, has been uncompromising in her commitment to the field of folklore and has helped establish what now epitomizes ‘best practices’ in public sector folklore methodology and practice.”

Owens’ career highlights include the production of highly praised media programs, exhibitions, festivals, and on-line and off-line publications. Working primarily in her home state of Louisiana, she has demonstrated an exceptional ability to design and implement innovative public programming bolstering education, apprenticeship programs, and entrepreneurial projects. Her fieldwork has meticulously documented folklife among her state’s longest-established residents as well as its newest immigrant and refugee communities. 

A resident of Baton Rouge who received BA and MA degrees from Louisiana State University, Owens has served on the Boards of the AFS (2002-2004) and Local Learning: The National Network for Folklife in Education (2009-present). She received an Archie Green Fellowship in 2014 from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to document local businesses in Baton Rouge; and a Dorothy Howard Prize for Folklore and Education from the American Folklore Society in 2000. Most recently, she succeeded in having the State of Louisiana name the entire month of October as Folklife Month “to recognize the rich diversity of Louisiana's living traditions and bring attention to the individuals who sustain them.”

The American Folklore Society, founded in 1888, is an association of people who study folklore and communicate knowledge about folklore throughout the world. Our more than 2,200 members and subscribers are scholars, teachers, and libraries at colleges and universities; professionals in arts and cultural organizations; and community members studying and conserving folk traditions.  For further information on the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize, the 2015 awardee, or on the American Folklore Society and its activities, please contact Lorraine Cashman, AFS Associate Director, at AFS, Eigenmann Hall, Indiana University, 1900 East Ten Street, Bloomington IN 47406 or

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