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2015 Annual Meeting Program Summary
The Society held its 126th annual meeting, on the theme "Ecologies, Encounters, and Enactments," on October 14-17, 2015, at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach, California. The meeting was attended by 541 participants, including 63 international scholars.

The complete program book, including the schedule and abstracts, can be found with all the other posted meeting information on the 2015 Annual Meeting webpage, at

See for a summary of the labor dispute at the conference hotel.

In addition to several professional development workshops (see below), AFS sponsored panels that furthered AFS special projects:

  • Two panels reported on developments in the China-US Forum on Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage project, with a progress report on China and US folklore collaborations in general (02-08), and another panel reporting on recent activities and future plans for the project on China and US Intangible Cultural Heritage and Ethnographic Museum Practice specifically (03-04).

  • AFS’s Oral History Project, managed by the Utah State University Library special collections division, grew this year with "A Conversation with John Szwed” and "Talking Folklore: A Conversation with Leading Scholars of Folk Religion and Belief.” This year’s "Talking Folklore” session featured Diane Goldstein, Jim Griffith, and Leonard Norman Primiano. As in previous years, the transcripts from these sessions will be deposited into the AFS oral history collection.

The 2015 annual meeting committee, made up of AFS members from around the state, reviewed presentation proposals and assembled panels. The committee produced a local guide and ran the Surf and Turf tour, which introduced tour-goers to some of the cultural and culinary richness of Southern California’s coastal region.

Two panels brought local community scholars and artists to the meeting. The "Asian/South Asian/Pacific Islander American Issues in Historic Preservation,” organized by Margaret Magat and sponsored by the local planning committee and the Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy Working Group, examined the challenges involved with preserving heritage that many Asian/South Asian/Pacific Islander Americans face in two communities in Southern California. "Best Shot: The Film Industry in the Words of Its Workers,” organized by Betty Belanus, considered the work history, skill-sets, and stories of four film industry workers who are based in Southern California.

The Cultural Diversity Committee sponsored three sessions: "Folklore 101: Foundations, Community, and Inclusion;” "Anti-Discrimination and Undoing Ecologies of Power: A Discussion;” and "Cultural Diversity and Local Realities: AFS and Community Engagement.” The first two were planned to frame the ways in which folklorists engage communities through encounters in which power is undeniably a factor, and to interrogate the ways in which those communities, folklorists' encounters with them, and folklorists' actions are impacted and shaped by power and privilege.The third was framed to explore questions about the Society's engagement with local communities, and involved AFS executive director Tim Lloyd and representatives of the labor organization UNITE HERE! and staff of the contested Long Beach hotels, including the Westin.

As in past years, the AFS Fellows sponsored the Fellows Reception for Students and the Fellows Breakfast of (Folklore) Champions. This year’s Francis Lee Utley Memorial Lecture, also sponsored by the AFS Fellows, was "What Ever Happened to Folk Song?” by John Szwed (see Plenaries, below).

In addition to sessions too numerous to mention and a few annual lectures (see Special Lectures/Events below), AFS sections sponsored several special events:

  • The Archives and Libraries Section sponsored a workshop on "Personal Archive Collection Management for Folklorists," and staffed an "Ask an Archivist" table in the exhibit room.
  • The Public Programs Section held a mixer for students and young professionals, as well as their annual auction.
  • The Graduate Student Section sponsored a mixer for students.
  • The Music and Song Section sponsored both instrumental and vocal jam sessions each evening, in addition to the Phillips Barry Lecture.
  • The Folklore and Creative Writing Section and the Storytelling Section sponsored an Open Mic.
  • The Folklore and Museums Section – formerly the AFS Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group – held its inaugural business meeting, which doubled as the final report for the Museum Policy and Practice Working Group, presenting the findings of the group’s initiatives to strengthen museum-based work within the field. The section als organized the second "Experiments in Exhibition” workshop (see Professional Development Workshops below).

For a full overview of the events and panels sponsored by each individual section, refer to the Index of Events (p. 135) in the 2015 Program.

The AFS-sponsored committee, the Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy Working Group, continued its work investigating the contributions our field can make to historic preservation policy in the United States. The group sponsored three sessions this year on this topic: "Refiguring Sense of Place in Studies of Narrative Ruin, Conflict, and Commemoration” (03-01); "Folklorists Doing Vernacular Architecture” (04-11); and "Asian/South Asian/ Pacific Islander American Issues in Historic Preservation” (06-09).


AFS awards and prizes were announced at the Opening Ceremony. Additionally, tributes to six colleagues who passed away during the past year were read as part of the Time of Celebration and Remembrance during the: Guy Carawan (remembrance by Steve Winick), Edgar Slotkin (remembrance by Sabina Magliocco), Brian Sutton-Smith (remembrance by Libby Tucker), Joe Wilson (remembrance by Tim Lloyd), and Don Yoder (remembrance by Leonard Norman Primiano). The text of these memorials has been added to In Memoriam in the Folklore Wiki. Others were able to leave their tributes to departed friends and colleagues at the Memorial board and table, which was on display throughout the meeting.

Candidates for the Executive Board and Nominating Committee introduced themselves at the Candidate’s Forum took place on Thursday afternoon. Biographical summaries and platform statements for all candidates are available on the AFS website here.

The AFS Fellows’ Francis Lee Utley Memorial Lecture, "What Ever Happened to Songs?” was given by John Szwed of Columbia University on October 16. Video of the lecture was available for live streaming, and can now be viewed at

Michael Ann Williams of Western Kentucky University concluded the meeting October 17 with her presidential address, "After the Revolution: Folklore, History, and the Future of Our Discipline.” Video of the lecture was available for live streaming, and can now be viewed at

Special Lectures/Events

Erika Brady of Western Kentucky University delivered the Don Yoder Lecture in Religious Folklife, sponsored by the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section, on the topic "’A Subtle Thing Withal’: Reflections on the Ineffable, the Unspeakable, and the Risible in Vernacular Religion.”

Maria Herrera-Sobek of the University of California, Santa Barbara, presented the Music and Song Section’s Phillips Barry Lecture, "Afro-Mestizo Imaginaries in "Música Tropical”: Gender Differences in the Representation of African Mexican Subjectivities in Musical Expressions.”

The film In Search of Finah Misa Kule was shown Thursday evening. Filmmaker Steve Zeitlin of City Lore was present to answer questions about the production.

The Women’s Section and Storytelling Section sponsored the Dan Crowley Memorial Concert, "Crone-ology: The Crones Tell Almost All.” The concert gave a playful retelling of past Women’s Section Croning rituals.

Professional Development Workshops

The Archives and Libraries Section offered a workshop on personal archive collection management.

The 2nd Annual Experiments in Exhibition Workshop was held at the Museum of Latin American Art. Participants learned about new methods for getting communities engaged with museums.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with AFS, once again sponsored the Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World Workshop, a day-long, pre-conference workshop for invited, first-time authors to work closely with editors and mentoring folklore experts on their book projects.

In "Publishing Your First Book: Dos and Don’ts and How It All Works," sponsored by AFS and Indiana University Press, IU Press director Gary Dunham devoted two hours to explaining the ins and outs of the scholarly publishing process.

Local Learning and the Folklore and Education section sponsored a four-hour workshop on "The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, the Folklore and Service Learning," focusing on service learning strategies for folklorists working as educators.

AFS offered a Wikipedia Workshop, led by Virginia Siegel, to equip participants with the practical skills for managing Wikipedia pages, thereby advancing one of AFS’s new initiatives to take control of Wikipedia’s content on folklore topics.

Diamond Presentations

Introduced at the 2010 Annual Meeting, diamond presentations are short, formalized presentations structured by time and images: each individual Diamond presentation is seven minutes long and presents 21 slides that are set to advance automatically every 20 seconds; the presentation is allowed additional time for discussion. The number of diamond presentations was down this year with only one session of five presenters dedicated to the format. 50 participants made Diamond presentations in 2012.

Opportunities for Students, First-time Attendees, and Young Professionals

A complete overview of opportunities for students, first-time attendees, and young professionals can be found on p. 3 of the 2015 Program. Additionally, a round-up of opportunities aimed particularly at students was compiled and distributed prior to the meeting. It can be viewed here: Highlights included:

  • The Breakfast of (Folklore) Champions, with Barbro Klein, Sabina Magliocco, Leonard Norman Primiano, and Timothy Tangherlini
  • Several social events, including receptions sponsored by the AFS Fellows, the Public Programs Section, the Graduate Student Section, and AFS
  • The AFS Mentoring Program

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