The American Folklore Society has joined the American Historical Association statement condemning “the actions of those who, on January 6, stormed the United States Capitol, the seat of the nation’s legislature, the heart of its democratic form of governance.” AFS unequivocally condemns the actions of those who fostered or participated in the violence and intimidation aimed at disrupting the constitutional process and firmly rejects the anti-democratic, White Supremacist and anti-Semitic agendas that were on display.
The divisions and excesses of this violent moment exemplify the need for the study of folklore, not as an object that can be taken out of context, but as a mode of communication that humans use in their daily lives to understand themselves, others, and their relationships to each other, their communities and the universe. Though we may gravitate in our professional practice to the creative, beautiful and healing uses of folklore, we recognize that it can just as easily serve evil and destructive impulses, as in the spread of hateful conspiracy theories and use of costumes, flags and chants that express in-group identity and unity of purpose energized by opposition to a fabricated other. However, while we acknowledge our discipline’s entanglement in historical and ongoing narratives and agendas that perpetuate inequities and violence, we testify to the power of our listening discipline to help us understand how folklore can be used to empower as well as disenfranchise, and to use those insights to advance equity, inclusivity and justice for all.
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