The Anatomy of a Folk Festival: Michigan on the Mall

The Anatomy of a Folk Festival: Michigan on the Mall

The Anatomy of a Folk Festival: Michigan on the Mall

The Anatomy of a Folk Festival: Michigan on the Mall

Synopsis

While most justification for festival research and programming focuses on capturing or salvaging cultural diversity, folklorists are only just beginning to become reflexive about our own work and to engage in a systematic cultural critique of our assumptions and programmes. This volume is an exercise in reflexivity which grew out of the Michigan Programme at the 1987 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. The Michigan Programme is an interesting case study not only because festival is one of the most debated and large-scale public sector products, but also because this particular festival represents a unique confluence of events; a state programme within one of the nation's most influential folklife festivals, which led to an ongoing state folklife festival in Michigan, studied by a team of Indiana University folklorists through a pioneering ethnography of the participant experience. CONTENTS INCLUDE: A Short History of American Folklife and Michigan's Contribution to Smithsonian Practice; An Ethnography of Participant Experience; The Festival of American Folklife and the Festival of Michigan Folklife: Catalysts for Cultural Conservation and Preservation.

Excerpt

Laurie Kay Sommers

Marcus and Fischer, in writing on the nature of ethnography, note its twin role of capturing or salvaging cultural diversity and of providing a cultural critique of ourselves (1986:20). While most justification for festival research and programming focuses on the former, we are only just beginning to become reflexive about our own work and to engage in a systematic cultural critique of our assumptions and programs. This special issue is an exercise in reflexivity which grew out of the Michigan Program at the 1987 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife (FAF). the Michigan Program is an interesting case study not only because festival is one of the most debated and large-scale public sector products, but also because this particular festival represents an unique confluence of events: a state program within one of the nation’s most influential folklife festivals, which led to an ongoing state folklife festival in Michigan, both studied by a team of Indiana University folklorists through a pioneering ethnography of the participant experience.

Since 1987, various analytic publications on public folklore practices and products have emerged, many of which address faf. Several of these are reviewed on the following pages; however, none take an in-depth look at a single festival program from the varied perspectives provided here. Michigan on the Mall looks at the events of 1987 and their aftermath from the viewpoint of producers, curators, ethnographers, field workers, presenters, and participants.

The original catalyst for the volume was the Indiana University study of the Michigan Program, first presented in draft form as the 1987 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife: An Ethnography of the Participant Experience (Sawin et al. 1988). the revised version of the study, Reflections on the Folklife Festival, An Ethnography of Participant Experience (Bauman et al. 1992), reflects feedback, some of it quite heated, from many individuals involved in the 1987 program. Today, eight years later, the Indiana University ethnography is still a pioneering collabora-

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