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What Do Folklorists Do?

The Folklore Wiki > About Folklore > What Do Folklorists Do?

Folklorists—many of whom are members of the American Folklore Society or of similar associations around the world—live and work throughout the world. They include students, teachers, scholars, consultants, community organizers, educators, and public agency professionals. Folklorists’ interests range from local family traditions to transnational issues of ethnic conflict, from publications to public programming, from the performing to the visual arts, from everyday life to communities’ most special occasions, and from research to public policy.

Folklorists publish scholarly articles, in-depth books, and engaging exhibition catalogs. They produce award-winning documentary films and recordings, as well as nationally recognized radio programs. They also develop interpretive programs for all ages: exhibitions, festivals, lectures, and concerts. They organize communities to identify and conserve their folklore and cultural heritage, and they work to establish public policy that honors and respects cultural diversity.

Whatever their particular interests or work, folklorists recognize the value of experience-based knowledge and the importance of understanding the intersections of artfulness and everyday life. The artistic, cultural, educational, historical, and political questions folklorists raise place the field at the leading edge of contemporary cultural issues, and establish folklore as a primary field of the humanities.

In 1989, at the beginning of its second century, the American Folklore Society commissioned folklorist Charles Camp to create a publication on the current and possible future state of the field of folklore. That publication, Time and Temperature (1989), included "The Folklorist As…”, a series of short essays by folklorists about the activities, challenges, and opportunities of their work.

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