Academic journal article Western Folklore

South Asian Folklore: A Handbook

Academic journal article Western Folklore

South Asian Folklore: A Handbook

Article excerpt

South Asian Folklore: A Handbook. By Frank J. Korom. (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006. Pp. ? + 225, preface, introduction, photographs, illustrations, chapter notes, glossary, bibliography, web resources, index. $55.00 cloth)

In South Asian Folklore: A Handbook, Frank J. Korom has managed to wrangle an enormous variety of folklore that comes from a sizable portion of the earth's surface into a single compact body of work. Some of the materials are taken from his own fieldwork, but the majority are from print resources - texts ancient and modern. Though this brief tour of South Asian folklore is rapid, the author has provided exceptional guideposts - notes, alternative reading suggestions, commentary for those interested in pursuing particular topics, a chapter on essential classical narratives, a useful glossary, and extensive lists of print and Internet resources.

The work covers a huge area - Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka (for those not familiar with the region, a map would have been helpful). In keeping with the impossibility of accounting for everything within such an immense range, Korom briefly puts the spotlight on a single region, Bengal, and renders it a focal point, showing, among other things, how folklore can unveil preconceived notions of Bengalis, and how Bengali folklore emerged out of Bengali nationalism. The lack of uniformity in the vast region covered by the Handbook prompts Korom to use the same strategy in his highlighting of a single genre, proverbs, to point up contextual differences in their meaning in different parts of one country, India. Because South Asia has long been an object of curiosity and desire for Europeans, South Asian folklore "must be seen as a unique by-product of European imagination and indigenous Indian creativity" (117).

One of the principal strengths of the book is Korom's interdisciplinary approach. He treats folklore not as a stagnant and bounded discipline, but as the cornerstone of many disciplines. In addition, he places his vast region in dialogue with past and current folklore theory. Even seasoned readers may find themselves surprised at the extent to which the Indian subcontinent has influenced folklore scholarship as a whole. Korom divides folklore scholarship in South Asia into three distinct periods: Amateurish Collection (1838-1878); Professionalism (1879-1920); and Rapid Expansion and Indigenous Involvement (1920-1947). …

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