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Lisa Rathje
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Lisa RathjeLisa Rathje is Executive Director of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education, and loves that her work builds bridges between folklorists, artists, and educators across the nation while advocating for the full inclusion of folklife and folk arts in education to transform learning. She co-edits Local Learning’s flagship publication, the Journal of Folklore and Education. Rathje also currently teaches courses on research methods and non-profit and community partnerships in the Goucher College Masters in Cultural Sustainability program.  She received her PhD in English with a concentration in Folklore from the University of Missouri. 

See a videorecording of Lisa tell about herself and what she would like to accomplish if elected to the Nominating Committee.

I feel like we have heard a lot about the challenges facing AFS. I aim to frame this statement in light of the opportunities that I see for the AFS moving forward. Folklorists are working at crucial interdisciplinary intersections of culture, community, education, environment, and arts, among others. Scrutinizing this closer, the Society includes members and affiliates (who I will refer to as “we”) who are studying ways culture sustains and makes communities resilient, as well as the ways culture supports structural racism and encourages bias. We build relationships within communities, and we use our understanding of “group” to build scholarship around tensions at community and political borders. We care deeply that education includes cultural ways of learning and know that it has been leveraged for colonial and hegemonic aims. We find that folklore provides us tools to understand and decode our complex environments, and that the arts contain significant expressions of worldviews, as well as ways to make our everyday life a little more beautiful. This diversity of scholarship, programming, and documentation done by its members and conference attendees should also be reflected in the leadership of AFS. As a society, our future and growth are predicated upon the nurturing of, and investment in, folklorists and our colleagues.

And it is in this word “colleagues” that I highlight a key tension that I see in our field. Namely, I strongly believe that the work of AFS should not be insular. I intentionally used “we” above to create a sense of necessary connection between members of AFS and our many colleagues—both from other disciplines and from the cultural communities where we work—who are informing our scholarship, bringing needed perspective to our programs, monitoring our hubris, and joined with us in the struggle to use critical frameworks and the tools of ethnography to facilitate greater understanding and justice in our many spaces. This does not make folklore diffuse, nor does it create more competition for limited funds. Rather, it provides access to new paths, important perspectives, and increases the visibility of folklore in other arenas.

I am honored to be considered as a candidate for the AFS Nominating Committee because this group solicits recommendations and then curates the shape of our leadership through a slate of candidates. I leave you with a question I would bring to this role: How might AFS nominations identify leadership that will broadcast inclusive folklore and thereby broker new or greater visibility for the field, and promote AFS as a vibrant member organization among diverse colleagues?







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