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Amy Shuman Receives 2019 AFS Lifetime Award for Scholarly Achievement

Tuesday, November 5, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rosalind V. Rini Larson

Amy Shuman received the 2019 AFS Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Baltimore.

This award is bestowed every year (and before 2012, every other year) on a living senior scholar in recognition of outstanding scholarly achievement over the course of a career.

Amy Shuman, Dorothy Noyes

Amy Shuman and Dorothy Noyes. Photo by Meredith McGriff

Amy Shuman is known for the theoretical import of each and every one of her publications, her openness and collegiality to students and other scholars, and her ability to continually turn paradigms on their head, blazing new trails but always with regard for those who went before. Shuman is internationally known and respected in a wide variety of fields and would fairly be numbered among the world’s top scholars in narratology.

Shuman was trained at the University of Pennsylvania at a time when its Folklore Program was overflowing with outstanding and important scholars in folklore studies and related fields. She took that training to new heights, pushing beyond distinguished scholars such as Erving Goffman, Ray Birdwhistell, and William Labov to carve out new thinking and applications. Her work on storytelling rights and entitlement is enormously important for narrative scholarship, as is her work on tellability, empathy, reported speech, literacy, positionality, disability and stigma. Most narrative scholars in folklore studies and other disciplines could not do the work they do had Shuman not laid the groundwork.

Among her many important publications are her books Storytelling Rights: Oral and Written Communication Among Urban Adolescents, Other People’s Stories: Entitlement Claims and the Critique of Empathy, Rejecting Refugees: Political Asylum in the 21st Century (with Carol Bohmer), Political Asylum Deceptions: The Culture of Suspicion (with Carol Bohmer), edited collections including Theorizing Folklore: Toward New Perspectives on the Politics of Culture (with Charles Briggs), and The Stigmatized Vernacular: Where Reflexivity Meets Untellability (with Diane Goldstein), a monograph, The Artist-Artisan Collaboration in Pietrasanta Italy (with Keara McMartin) and over sixty articles and book chapters, as well as a film entitled Choosing to Care: Jewish Philanthropy in Columbus (with Amy Horowitz and Florence Minnis). Her chapters appear in many of the most important narrative anthologies including The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History, The Handbook of Narrative Analysis, Teaching Narrative Theory, Varieties of Narrative Analysis and The Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. Other chapters and articles appear in prominent venues in feminist theory, law and asylum studies, human rights studies, linguistic anthropology, history, literacy studies and Jewish Studies. She has published in all of folklore’s premier journals and contributed to many of the field’s most important collections. Her writings are the mainstay of many folklore classes and appear regularly on the comprehensive exam lists in folklore studies graduate programs. Her recent work has made a major contribution to the field of disability studies.

Shuman’s writings are always insightful, deeply rooted in international intellectual history and scholarship and yet also consistently sophisticated in the import of her contributions to contemporary scholarly theory. Her work always provides new ways to think about and navigate the relationship between vernacular expressive culture and our large cultural institutions and each project and each publication is deeply rooted in a commitment to humanitarian advocacy. Her work (often with legal scholar Carol Bohmer) explores fundamental issues of the stigmatization of people – from asylum seekers to those who are otherwise abled, the role of narrative in the political asylum process, refugee rights and activism, and exploring speech and silence in grappling with atrocities and human rights. Through her writing and her presentations, she is both an applied folklorist and an activist.

It is worth noting that Shuman’s scholarly contributions extend beyond her publications to her reputation within the discipline for gracious sharing of ideas, research and expertise with students, early career scholars and international colleagues. She is well-known for offering her astute notes following conference presentations and for her ability to make deep and meaningful connections between ideas. Following conferences she will often forward useful references or share her own research findings. Her scholarly generosity has resulted in numerous awards for distinguished teaching and advising.

Appointed initially to the The Ohio State University in 1987, Shuman has served on more than a hundred MA and PhD committees, as well as a number of MFA committees and Undergraduate Honors Thesis directions. In addition to her long and active teaching career at Ohio State, she frequently assists students from other programs in her areas of specialty, serving as external readers or unofficially offering a pedagogical hand. While at Ohio State, she has worked in multiple administrative positions which reflect the many fields she has contributed to so actively. She has served as Director of the Center for Folklore Studies, Interim Director of the Melton Center for Jewish Studies, Director of Disability Studies and Director of the Diversity and Identity Studies Collective.

Shuman is the recipient of many grants and honors, both in the United States and Internationally. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the American Folklore Society (where she was just elected to the Fellows executive committee), a Finnish Fellows invited scholar, a Fellow of the Hebrew University Institute for Advanced Study, a Rockefeller Bellagio recipient, and a winner of the Katherine Briggs Book Award, just to highlight a few of these honors. In addition to receiving a number of large grants from programs at The Ohio State University, she has held grants from several foundations including the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ohio Humanities Council.

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