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Margaret Mills

MARGARET MILLS, Professor emerita, Department of Near East Languages and Cultures, The Ohio State University

Raised in the Pacific Northwest. BA Radcliffe 1968 (English and Anthropology), PhD Harvard 1978 (Ad hoc degree in General Folklore, Comparative Literature [Near East] and Cultural Anthropology, director Albert B. Lord. Contract researcher on higher education development (Iran, 1978-79 prior to revolution) and the US government’s WIN (welfare to work), program (1979-80). Folklore field research and writing supported by Fulbright-Hayes, NSF, NEH, AAUW, the Guggenheim Foundation, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Ohio State for University including Mershon Center International Security Studies. Current oral history/folklore research in Afghanistan. Teaching general and Near Eastern folklore including women’s and gender studies topics, the University of Washington (Spring, 1982), Pomona College (1982-83), the University of Pennsylvania (1983-1998), Ohio State University. Administrative experience: Pomona College (1982-83, Dean of Women/Associate Dean of Students), U. Pennsylvania (Graduate Studies Chair, Department Chair), Ohio State University (Department Chair). Participant in folklore-related workshops and invited lectures in Finland (including Finnish Folklore Summer School), Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Germany, Israel, France and Turkey. Joined AFS in 1971 and the Women’s Section in 1973. Served on AFS Board in late 1990’s, and on the Program Committee for the 2000 AFS annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” In a difficult period, folklorists and AFS are doing rather well in certain areas due to some excellent leadership and administrative vision. Eleven public folklore institutions are now associated with academic units, demonstrating the success of folklorists’ initiatives and helping erase the "mistaken dichotomy” between academic and public sector spheres that we used to worry about. I would wish AFS to help expand on such successes. A number of universities have found ways to expand and strengthen their folklore offerings as departments or interdepartmental collaboratives. Having spent most of my time in academia, sometimes under very negative conditions, I know the importance of public/academic collaborations, and would seek additional ways AFS could strengthen them. Only with public recognition of the value of folklorists’ work in communities will academic programs be supported to produce professionally trained folklorists with appropriately broad skill sets.

Because most of my research has been in Afghanistan, the former Soviet Tajikistan, and Pakistan, I want to develop AFS’s ability to support folklorists working toward greater tolerance under difficult political circumstances here and abroad. Diversity issues in AFS as in our society at large need more address. We have a (complex) opportunity to make common cause and deepen our conversations with folklorists from abroad whom we invite for AFS meetings and exchange activities. Many of them found their vocation in folklore out of critical concern for issues of minority representation in their home settings. AFS can support, and can learn more from, those individuals and institutions addressing diversity/minority issues. AFS’s critical engagement with the WIPO process is also important. Open access, another recent AFS initiative, holds its own promise for marginalized groups to enlarge their capacity for cultural self-representation. Academically, AFS could help members and programs to launch free online courses like those being pioneered by elite universities. As part of long-range planning, AFS might also sponsor small working groups or think tanks to identify the next generation of our professional issues, needs, and resources to build upon.

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