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Politics, Folklore, and Social Justice Section

Who We Are:

The Politics, Folklore, and Social Justice Section of the American Folklore Society has two main purposes: to promote the study of the relationship of folklore to politics and the politics of everyday life, and to provide a voice within the American Folklore Society for issues of social justice and to apply our work with a vision of a more just and equitable world. We have about 70 members. As of our 2012 meeting we began changing our goals somewhat, focusing on becoming a support and resource organization for those of us working at the intersection of folklore and social justice. 

Membership is open to all, and costs $5. Membership for students is free, and membership is not restricted to AFS members.

Click here to join this section.

Already a member? Click here  to visit the member-only group.

Click here to contribute section dues ($5 regular; student/under-waged — free).


Contact the section conveners at

What We Do:

We serve as a participatory-driven resource organization for folklorists working at the intersection of cultural studies and social justice. We meet once a year during the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society where we discuss our section-based outreach, the William Still Citation and the David Schuldiner Lecture (see below). During the rest of the year we stay connected online, sharing resource, offering support to one another, keeping the one another posted about what's happening throughout the field, and encouraging inter-generational support for social justice-oriented folklorists entering the field.

Our goal is to be as participatory as possible, and we'd love to have you join us. Click here  to learn more! 

Members of the PFSJ section may also be interested in the work of the Peace and Justice Studies Association  and the Society for Applied Anthropology .

Section History:

The section was founded at the AFS meeting in Jacksonville in 1992. Auspiciously, on the very day the section was founded, Rigoberta Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Bill Westerman served as the convener of the section from its inception until stepping down in 2009. Christina Barr and  Mario Montaño served as conveners from 2009-2012. Meredith Martin-Moats  and Mario Montaño were 2012-14.  Rhonda Dass became convener in 2014. Current convener information can be found by joining the online section group free of charge and visiting the private section page.

Section Activities:

Resource Building: 

We are working to build interactive resources to help support folklorists who are, or want to be, working at the intersection of folklore and social justice. This include lists of organizations working in the arena of social justice, information on publications and internships, direction action and organizing, and ongoing discussions focused on theory building and organizing praxis. Please let us know about the work you're doing so we can add this to our list! If you can devote time to this ongoing effort, please let Meredith know.  

Click here to view the resource list from the 2014 theory-building panel: Building Networks for Social Justice Organizing reading list 

Paper/Panel Sponsorships:

Each year during the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society we sponsor papers and panels that explore concepts of social justice, political action and history. To submit a paper or propose a panal idea, email Rhonda at the link above. 

David Shuldiner Memorial Lectures

In memory of our colleague David Shuldiner, a pioneering folklorist and oral historian, lifelong activist for social justice and human dignity, and founder of the journal Folklore In Use, in 2003 the section inaugurated a series of talks to be delivered at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. The topic will come from an area of David's professional interests, such as folklore and social struggle, oral history, gerontology, and folk ideology. Shuldiner lecturers are activists, community scholars, or folklorists selected by the section. It's been a few year since we had a David Shuldiner lecture, but we hope to reinstate the lectures after 2014. If you are interested in helping with this, please contact Rhonda at the email address above. 

Past Shuldiner lecturers have been:

2008 Stetson Kennedy

2007 Cynthia Cohen

2006 Rahim Alhaj (concert and lecture)

2003 Margaret Randall

William Still Citation:

The section annually awards its William Still Citation for lifetime achievement in community cultural work. The award goes to organizations or individuals who have combined traditional arts and culture with a vision for social justice. The award, currently $100 and lifetime honorary membership in the section, goes to an organization in the geographical vicinity of the AFS meeting, so that a representative can meet with folklorists at the conference. Deadline is August 15 of select years. 

How to apply: see the AFS Review for the most recent information. Contact the section conveners  with questions.

Previous winners of the William Still Citation have been:

1994 James Cameron and America's Black Holocaust Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1996 The Open Hearth Education Project, James Abrams, Executive Director, Johnstown, Pennsylvania (

1997 The Esperanza Peace & Justice CenterGraciela I. Sanchez, Executive Director, San Antonio, Texas

1998 Radio KDNA, Granger, Washington

1999 Highlander Research and Education Center, Guy and Candie Carawan, Directors, New Market, Tennessee

2000 Appalshop, Whitesburg, Kentucky

2001 Alaska Native Medical Center Auxiliary, Anchorage, Alaska

2003 Native Seeds/SEARCH, Tucson, Arizona

2012 Mary Howell, Civil Rights Attorney working in New Orleans. 

Bibliograhy of Works By and About Still Citation Recipients:

Adams, Frank with Myles Horton. Unearthing Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander. Winston-Salem, North Carolina: John F. Blair, 1975.

Cameron, James. A Time of Terror. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1994.

Carawan, Guy, and Candie Carawan, eds. Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Its Songs. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.: Sing Out! Publications, 1997.

Carawan, Guy, and Candie Carawan. Voices from the Mountains. New York: Knopf, 1975. Repr. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

Glen, John M. Highlander: No Ordinary School. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1988.

Horton, Myles, and Paulo Freire. We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change

Horton, Myles, Herbert Kohl, and Judith Kohl. The Long Haul. New York: Teachers College Press, 1998.

Shuldiner, David P. Aging Political Activists: Personal Narratives from the Old Left. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1995.

---. Folklore, Culture, and Aging: A Research Guide. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997.

---. Of Moses and Marx: Folk Ideology and Folk History in the Jewish Labor Movement. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin & Garvey, 1999.

Still, William. Underground Rail Road Records. Repr. Chicago: Johnson Publishing, 1975.

We are building this page--collectively, of course--so your input and comments are welcome!



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