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2019 Annual Meeting Theme: Community Driven

You can’t stop the people of Baltimore from expressing themselves and making a difference; nor the enduring traditions that define this City of Neighborhoods and its myriad communities. From Highlandtown to Cherry Hill, Druid Hill Park to Curtis Bay, Eastside, Westside and in between, these communities drive culture/place-making and challenge scholars, activists, and administrators to keep up. As it is in Baltimore, so is it in Maryland, a vital state diverse in geographies and peoples—urban, rural, Appalachian, and estuarine. Home to more than one hundred ethnic communities and a long and complex history, the barriers and gifts of culture and community are enduring themes.

Throughout the meeting, we will explore what it means for the folklore world to be of, by and for the people—in other words, community driven. We welcome contributions that consider partnerships, local responses and resistance, work that grows from common traditions and fosters new connections and grassroots curations of action and sustainability. How are communities using folklore and its tools to make things happen; to address concerns, to respond to change and injustice, to create the conditions for culture to thrive? We eagerly anticipate the opportunities this gathering provides to consider the role of cultural workers and researchers of all kinds in sustaining community and expressive life, and what “community” means in a time of division and distraction, and we especially welcome proposals for presentations—in whatever format—that are populated robustly by community members telling their own stories in their own words.

In focusing on what is community driven, we hope not only to draw attention to Baltimore and to the state of Maryland, but to the place of folk and vernacular culture in the contemporary terrain of our digitally connected world. Our interests as a field have always revolved around the expressive life that stems from situated sociality. We live in a time where traditional expression swiftly leaps between locales, flowing on webs of migration, commerce, social media and translocal subcultures and countercultures. What does it mean to say that folklore is community driven in such a milieu? What opportunities and challenges do culture makers experience when their community-driven work opens new doors and access? What makes a folk in this digital age? Lines of community blur and are rewritten, but the work remains, as folklorists and other culture makers and researchers straddle institutions and projects, always concerned for the truths to be explored with rich ethnographic specificity, always concerned with our role in the right of people to share their own stories and name their own belonging. We know our institutional access, our disciplinary perspectives and our craft—in areas such as documentation, archiving, education, presentation, and advocacy—can have enormous value to community-driven efforts. We see this conference as an opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with our community peers in sharing ideas, knowledge and resources, building connections and empowerment, and breaking down walls.

Finally, in response to recent alarming reports, we ask that you consider how communities can respond to the looming crisis of our planetary ecosystems and its impact on community stability. These changes will powerfully reshape our landscapes both literally and figuratively. Folklore’s abiding interest in resourcefulness, resilience, and solidarity places us on the front lines of community driven adaptation and response, and we welcome proposals that address these issues.

The organizing committee invites you to interpret and explore this wide-ranging topic in the form of papers, panels, forums, films, diamond and new types of presentations. Contact to discuss alternative presentation formats.

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American Folklore SocietySister Society: SIEF
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