Benjamin Gatling is an Associate Professor in the English Department at George Mason University, Director of the Folklore Program, and Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from The Ohio State University and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include personal narrative, performance, the ethnography of communication, and Persianate oral traditions. His first book, Expressions of Sufi Culture in Tajikistan, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2018. His current book project considers the experiences of Afghan refugees and migrants in the US.
What is the future you wish for AFS and how as a member of the Executive Board would you work toward this future?
AFS has taken important steps to address inequities and increase the visibility of our field. I am proud of the work the Society has made in beginning to contend with long-overdue issues surrounding racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in the annual meeting and the Society as a whole. AFS leadership has moved in other positive directions through efforts to highlight the diversity of the public work that folklorists do, in fostering international cooperation, and by overhauling the branding of its publications and website. My hope is that as a board member I would be active to the Society’s different constituencies to press AFS to continue to make progress in these areas.
I have been a member of the Society since I was a graduate student and have worked on AFS initiatives that I hope to continue to move forward as a board member. I was book review editor of the Journal of American Folklore from 2015-2020. I now serve as associate editor of JAF.
I participated in conversations that resulted in a commitment to publish contributions from people representing diverse positions to engage social issues around race, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, and citizenship and to better highlight public and applied work within the journal.
I look forward to strategizing about how to create pipelines for more people representing diverse positions to enter our field. This is an issue that we need to address at all levels, from recruiting undergraduates to major in folklore to providing professional opportunities for graduate students. I direct a folklore program and a larger interdisciplinary studies program at one of the most diverse universities in the country, where I recently spearheaded a revision of our curricula with similar aims in mind. The Society is moving in the right direction. My goal as a board member will be to keep up the momentum.