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Kay Turner

KAY TURNER, Independent Scholar and Public Folklorist, Brooklyn, New York

Born in Detroit. BA Rutgers University 1971 (Literature/Philosophy), MA/PhD University of Texas Austin 1989 (Folklore/Anthropology). Interim Director, Folk Arts Collections, San Antonio Museum of Art 1982-1984; Co-Founder/Associate Director, Texas Folklife Resources 1984-1991; Folk Arts Director, Brooklyn Arts Council 2000-2014. AFS: member since 1972, Executive Board 2006-2008; Elli Köngäs-Maranda Prize 2000, AFS Fellows 2013, Benjamin Botkin Prize 2013; Women’s, Public Programs, LGBTQA, and Folk Narrative Sections; New York Folklore Society: Board 2011-present; folk arts panels, consultancies, lectures, publications 1979-present. Adjunct Visiting Professor, Performance Studies Department, NYU 2000-present: courses include: women’s folklore, oral narrative theory, urban folklore, pedagogies of the ephemeral, ghost ontologies. Books include: Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars, Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms (with Pauline Greenhill). Support includes: Woodrow Wilson, NEA, NYSCA, SSHRC, American Express, and MetLife. Public programs/exhibitions: Art Among Us/Arte Entre Nosotros (with Pat Jasper), Brooklyn Maqam: Arab Music Festival; Days of the Dead in Brooklyn: Diverse Traditions of Mourning and Remembrance; Folk Roots of the Black Brooklyn Renaissance, 1960-2010; Harborlore/Sandylore; September 11th Rethinking Memorial Series (2005-2011).

Nothing galls me more than meeting someone at a conference, cocktail party, or Costco and, when asked the inevitable "What do you do?” respond proudly "Folklorist,” to which newly introduced replies "That’s nice.” Nice it is not, necessary it is. To be a folklorist is to be entrusted with a diverse body of critical cultural knowledge, art, and practice and to be just ornery enough to believe the world is better off if we share it out in teaching, researching, writing, consulting, public programming, advocating, archiving, and engaging with each other as members of our Society. My long career has been played across this remarkable spectrum; no other humanities discipline even comes close to offering its professionals such range of possibility. This is our greatest strength and one that requires continued nurturance and expansion along lines AFS has accomplished recently with the China exchange, Endowment and Sustainers’ funds, the AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus, and new opportunities for graduate students and first-book authors. I want to continue and enhance service and growth initiatives such as these. As a Society we are stronger than ever, but we also face significant challenges in an increasingly digitally dominant, climate changing, late capitalist era fraught with inequities. Social justice, education, and the preservation/adaptation/sustainability spheres of our work are critical now, as are our commitments to creating a more diverse, globally representative Society emboldened by assertive cross-disciplinary efforts, curricular initiatives, fresh exploration and dissemination of our historical materials and paradigms, and enhanced digital fleetness for communicating our knowledge and interests across multiple platforms.  

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