Ann K. Ferrell is currently Associate Professor of Folk Studies at Western Kentucky University. Her experience includes undergraduate and graduate teaching, publicly engaged folklore research and programming such as festivals and exhibits, and serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of American Folklore (2016-2020). Much of her fieldwork has been with Kentucky farmers, resulting in publications such as Burley: Kentucky Tobacco in a New Century (University Press of Kentucky, 2013) as well as archival collections. She is co-authoring a book of case studies of debates about issues of representation in folklore studies in the 1970s and 80s. She has been a member of the American Folklore Society since 1998.
What are the most significant opportunities or challenges now facing AFS, and how as a member of the Executive Board would you respond to those opportunities or challenges?
AFS has been a home for me for nearly twenty-five years, both as my scholarly/professional society and because of personal relationships I have developed in the field, and I am committed to the continued positive growth and long-term health of the Society. I know I am not alone in this and believe that our greatest strength is the level of enduring membership commitment to AFS. I fully believe the mantra that “AFS” is its membership, rather than the board and staff alone, and therefore a group effort is necessary for determining who we are and who we want to be. Such efforts require the perspectives of all members, as has been stressed in the recent renewal of the Society’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; we must continue to build on this strength through active efforts of inclusion. I believe that many of our greatest challenges can be traced to the continued and increasing defunding of higher education in general and the humanities in particular. As a field, we rely on the existence of graduate programs in folklore studies for the training of professionals in the field; we rely on the tenure and promotion process and its historical assurances that those teaching in our field have access to academic freedom and to sustained employment, for their sake and the sake of our students; we rely on university presses to publish our work in journals, edited collections, and monographs; we rely on university archives to safeguard the results of our field research for perpetuity; and we increasingly rely on university support for public folklore programs, along with the arts councils, non-profits, and other organizations that once more frequently housed them. All of this and more is threatened in an environment of increasing attacks on post-secondary education. As a small field, we are particularly vulnerable in this environment, and this must be central to the work of the AFS in the immediate future.