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Why I'm a Folklorist


"Why I’m a Folklorist" is a film project initiated by Kay Turner during her tenure as AFS president. In a spontaneous moment at an AFS board meeting dinner in 2016, Kay took out her iPhone and began asking those seated nearby "Why are you a folklorist? You've got two minutes to tell me." More formal filming events followed, resulting in more than sixty short interviews being filmed for the project.

Colleagues from across our discipline–grad students, newly minted and long-tenured professors, public folklorists, adjuncts and activists–have participated. Kay says, "The eloquence, emotion, and sheer variety of claims made is outstanding. None of the interviews lasts more than a few minutes, but in those brief moments with folklorists, the viewer gains a real sense of why people join our field. In part, this project fulfills the Society's request and the Board's goal to bring folklore to a wider world."

As of January 2019, fifty-six of these interviews are available to the public. The videos currently available include interviews that were shot during fall 2016 and spring 2017 at folklore events in Chapel Hill, NC and Bloomington, IN, as well as interviews recorded at the 2017 AFS Annual Meeting in Minneapolis. Additional videos are still in post-production and will be published in the coming months. To view all of the "Why I'm a Folklorist" interviews published so far, please visit the "Why I'm a Folklorist" playlist on the American Folklore Society Youtube channel.

If you would like to tell your own story for this project, or if you would like to host a "Why I'm a Folklorist" filming event, please contact Kay Turner or the American Folklore Society (

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