Tradition in the Twenty-First Century: Locating the Role of the Past in the Present

Tradition in the Twenty-First Century: Locating the Role of the Past in the Present

Tradition in the Twenty-First Century: Locating the Role of the Past in the Present

Tradition in the Twenty-First Century: Locating the Role of the Past in the Present

Excerpt

In his 2007 presidential address to the American Folklore Society (AFS), later published in the Journal of American Folklore, Bill Ivey boldly asserted that “antimodernism is a central motivating engine that runs through all of folklore” (Ivey 2011, 11). Painting a vivid picture of the archetypical homes where folklore researchers live, he described how they keep their “black-and-white TV set tucked far into the corner” while opting to “sing or dance” in their living rooms. Counting those in the audience that day among his dancers, Ivey proclaimed that we who research folklore are “temperamentally disposed against the forces of modernity” (11). His compelling speech jarred the soon-to-be-coeditors of this book to attention—and out of a significant rut in the shared ideological road that folklorists travel.

Is it really true that folklore and the researchers who study it are “disposed against the forces of modernity” by temperament? With tradition both thoroughly embedded in modern life and at the center of folklore studies, can a student of folklore actually be inherently antimodern? We decided to put together a panel for the 2009 American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in Boise, Idaho, that would explore “tradition” as it manifests among us today. Joined by folklorists Simon J. Bronner, Merrill Kaplan, Elliott Oring, and Tok Thompson, we set out to demonstrate that tradition is indeed alive and well in the twenty-first century. In doing so, the panel helped to facilitate a vibrant discourse that generated ongoing discussions, debates, and disagreements. We explored the very nature of tradition as a concept, as well its role within folkloristics, and that discussion continued well after the session concluded. Ultimately, these ongoing debates about tradition have yielded the diverse body of essays that comprise this volume.

To set the stage for the broad ground traveled in this collection, our introduction aims to more fully explore the position that folklore scholarship

DOI: 10.7330/9780874218992.c00

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