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2012 Annual Meeting Theme: The Continuity and Creativity of Culture

A series of cataclysms over the past decade have thrown into high relief both the fragility of culture and also the sometimes surprising, unpredictable resilience of culture. Whether the turn of events is natural or human in origin, any response must come from people, people guided by their experiences and beliefs, by what they have done, by what they think is the right thing to do. As workers in a discipline dedicated to the documentation of continuity, folklorists often have an intimate view of the creativity necessary to preserve the continuity of traditions. Such creativity need not occur only in marked moments but also, as most folklorists know all too well, in the face of everyday life: everywhere people arise to create their reality in careful coordination with others so that work can get done, children raised, meals made, souls fulfilled.

One of our field’s key concepts, tradition involves both conservation and change; the creativity that exists within tradition and shapes change invites closer examination. Communities (and cultural policy) increasingly engage the representation and future of tradition and culture in economic, educational and political terms that are overt and even formalized, all the while informal vernacular creativity often also persists in more intimate settings of family, neighborhood, ethnic, occupational or regional groups. The destruction wrought by hurricanes and oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico have threatened local culture as well as the physical environment. This may mean that New Orleans is a particularly appropriate place for folklorists to address the role of tradition in cultural continuity and change. While destructive events have threatened traditional home places, occupations, and lifestyles along the Gulf Coast, threats to cultural continuity occur in many contexts in many places, giving us the opportunity to discuss a variety of related issues (not limited to the pressures placed upon tradition by such destructive forces).

The organizers of this year’s meeting believe that the larger question of continuity in culture offers many possibilities for examination, not necessarily involving cultural disruption. While we welcome all submissions, including individual submissions on all topics, we particularly invite panels, forums, diamond presentations, and posters that address cultural continuity, why and how it is maintained, how it can be disrupted, how its resilience can offer reassuring stability, even healing, or how its disruption can threaten well-being and long-standing social interactions. Conference presentations might address the very nature of tradition, or the components of tradition, or such facets of creative approaches to tradition as cultural revivals and key performers, or how performances reveal the mechanics of tradition in such a way as to highlight their creativity. Presentations might also deal with how traditions guide people, either in their everyday lives or in adverse situations, how strong or weak tradition is as a force in culture and how creative vernacular responses affect cultural agency and continuity.

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American Folklore SocietySister Society: SIEF
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