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Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section

The Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section sponsors an annual lecture by a distinguished specialist, forums, and panels at the AFS annual meeting; publishes an annual newsletter for members; sponsors the Don Yoder Prize for the Best Graduate Student Paper in Folk Belief or Religious Folklife, the William A. Wilson Prize for the Best Undergraduate Student Paper in Folk Belief and Religious Folklife, and the Elaine J. Lawless Graduate Student Travel Award. Membership is $10. 

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Click here to pay section dues ($10).

Section conveners:

Maggie Kruesi
American Folklife Center, retired
Library of Congress

Leonard Norman Primiano
Department of Religious Studies
Cabrini University
610 King of Prussia Road
Radnor, PA 19087 USA

Elaine J. Lawless Graduate Student Travel Award


The Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section of AFS announces a travel stipend in honor of distinguished folklorist, religious folklife scholar, and professor, Elaine J. Lawless, of up to $500 to be awarded to a graduate student to participate in the Society’s annual meeting. The purpose of the prize is to stimulate new work in religious folklife. Applicants are encouraged to join AFS and must be members of the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section of AFS; annual dues are $10. Application is open to international and domestic graduate students, both MA/MS and PhD level. The award money will be released to the recipient after the annual meeting to assure participation. Awarded once every three years.


Deadline: March 1 (of select years) by midnight. The awardee will be notified prior to the AFS presentation proposal deadline (March 31).  The Lawless Graduate Student Travel Award will not be offered in 2020.


The award is contingent on the applicant's proposal being accepted for participation in the AFS meeting. The awardee and the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section members will be notified after AFS proposal reviews are complete, usually by June 15.

The graduate student recipient may receive this award one time only.

To be considered for the award, applicants must submit the following:

o  A copy of the long and short abstracts that you will be submitting for AFS meeting evaluation/selection. 

o  A brief curriculum vitae, resume, or biography of your professional life.

o  A letter detailing your specific reasons for wanting to present on religious folklife at the AFS annual meeting AND the impact you expect the meeting will have on your work.

o  A letter from a faculty member of your academic department in support of your application.

o  Your estimated travel expenses and the amount requested.

Please submit applications by email only to co-chair Leonard Norman Primiano, PhD, Cabrini University,, and include the Subject Line: Elaine J. Lawless Graduate Student Travel Award, with a copy to co-chair Margaret Kruesi, PhD,


Call for Submissions, Deadline Change to: August 15

Don Yoder Graduate Paper Prize, $500 AND William A. Wilson Undergraduate Paper Prize, $250
Sponsored by the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section, American Folklore Society

The Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section of the American Folklore Society invites submissions for TWO student prizes: The Don Yoder Prize for the Best Graduate Student Paper in Folk Belief or Religious Folklife, with an honorarium of $500; and a second prize, the William A. Wilson Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Undergraduate Paper Prize; with an honorarium of $250.
Submissions: All research papers by undergraduate or graduate students, in English, written after January 1 of the previous year (e.g., January 1, 2019 for the 2020 Prize), published or unpublished at the time of submission, and written on a folk belief or religious folklife topic, broadly construed, are eligible.
Interested applicants must submit the following materials for consideration: 1. A cover letter specifying the date when the paper was written; the conference, colloquium, or course where the paper has been or will be submitted; or the publication in which it will be published. 2. Entries must be fully footnoted for a reading audience, using Journal of American Folklore citation style. 3. Electronic submissions are preferred, sent to the address below; however, if submitted by mail, please send three copies of the paper, which should be a minimum of 8 pages, and a maximum of 40 pages, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. PLEASE NOTE: To ensure blind judgment of papers, please remove the author's name from the paper. 4. A short (100-word) biographical statement about the author, including the author’s current graduate or undergraduate status, and about the research. 5. A letter or e-mail from a faculty sponsor endorsing submission of the paper.
Deadline: The online and postmark deadline for submissions is August 15. Any materials received after this deadline will not be considered.
Electronic submissions of papers are preferred; papers and supporting documents should be sent as Microsoft Word document attachments or pdf. Printed copies may be sent to the address below; please do not submit faxed items.
Confirmation of receipt for electronic submissions will be sent. One submission per person, please. Previous winners of the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Student Prizes are not eligible; except for winners of the undergraduate student prize, who may later submit a new research paper for the Don Yoder Prize. The papers will be evaluated by three judges who are members of both the American Folklore Society and the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section. The winner will be announced at the Section's business meeting at the Society's annual meeting. The winners may be asked to submit photographs for online announcments.
Application materials should be sent to:  
Leonard Norman Primiano
Department of Religious Studies
Cabrini University
610 King of Prussia Road
Radnor, PA 19087 USA


Don Yoder Lecture in Religious Folklife

Sponsored by the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife Section

Leonard Norman Primiano (Cabrini University) and

Margaret Kruesi (American Folklife Center), co-chairs



David Hufford (Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, emeritus)

Sleeping Reason Dreams of Disenchantment, but...: A Study of the Extraordinary Spiritual Experiences among Combat Veterans

Bonnie B. O'Connor (Alpert Medical School, Brown University, emerita), discussant


Michael Owen Jones (University of California, Los Angeles, emeritus)

Herbs and Saints in the City of Angels: Researching Botánicas, Healing, and Power in Southern California

Holly Everett (Memorial University of Newfoundland), discussant


Jeff Todd Titon (Brown University, emeritus)

Eco-Justice and Folklife

Mary Hufford (Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network [LiKEN]) and

Rory Turner (Goucher College), discussants


Dan Ben-Amos (University of Pennsylvania)

Kol Nidre, The Prayer that Haunted the Rabbis and Charmed their Folks

Simon J. Bronner (Penn State Harrisburg), discussant


Erika Brady (Western Kentucky University)--“A Subtle Thing Withal”: Reflections on the Ineffable, the

Unspeakable, and the Risible in Vernacular Religion 

Sabina Magliocco (California State University, Northridge), discussant


Henry Glassie (Indiana University, emeritus)

Text and Icon in Religious Art

Leonard Norman Primiano (Cabrini College), discussant


Don Yoder (University of Pennsylvania, emeritus)

Religion and Folk Art: Reflections on Key Concepts in Folklife Studies

Gerald L. Pocius (Memorial University of Newfoundland), discussant


Donald Cosentino (University of California, Los Angeles)

Why Did Gede Let This Happen?: Catastrophe and Theodicy in

21st-Century Haitian Vodou

Glenn Hinson (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and

Kerry Noonan (Champlain College), discussants


William A. (Bert) Wilson (Brigham Young University, retired)

Mormon Folklore: Mormon Folk Religion, or Mormon Vernacular Religion, or

Mormon Religious Folklore? And Who are the Mormons Anyway, and

Do They Have Any Uniquely Identifiable Mormon Folklore?

David J. Hufford (Pennsylvania State University) and

Tom Mould (Elon University), discussants


Elaine J. Lawless (University of Missouri)

What Zora Knew: A Crossroads, a Bargain with the Devil, and a Late Witness

Marilyn M. White (Kean University) and

David Todd Lawrence (University of St. Thomas), discussants


William Westerman (Princeton University)

Epistemology of the Flail and the Politics of Inductive Reasoning


Diane Goldstein (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Kaleidoscopes, Methodological Play, and the Intrinsic Politics of Belief Scholarship

William Westerman (Princeton University), discussant


Sandra Zimdars-Swartz (University of Kansas)

Perceiving the Sacred: Visionaries, Hagiographers, and Portrayals of Religious


Erika Brady (Western Kentucky University), discussant


Don Yoder (University of Pennsylvania, emeritus)

Folk Religion and the Pennsylvania German Broadside

Gerald L. Pocius (Memorial University of Newfoundland), discussant


Gary Laderman (Emory University)

The Cult of Doctors: Harvey Cushing and the Religious Culture of Biomedicine

David J. Hufford (Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine), discussant


Marion Bowman (The Folklore Society; The Open University)

Sacred Spaces in Liminal Places: Airport Chapels and Religion in Transit

Kimberly J. Lau (University of Utah) and

Teri F. Brewer (University of Glamorgan), discussants


David J. Hufford (Pennsylvania State University)

Folklife and the Triumph of Folk Medicine

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