The Stuff of Tradition: Materiality and Media in Folklore Studies
October 1 at 12:00 pm
Having been historically conceived as the study of intangible aspects of vernacular expressive practice and having gone through its own self-critique of text- and logo-centrism, folklore studies appears to be in a tensional relationship with materiality. Within folklore studies, inscribed print communication and the “secondary orality” (Ong 1988) of audiovisual media – like radio and television – were long argued to represent an adversary or degradation of supposedly authentic modes of communication (e.g., face-to-face speech). Furthermore, many of the foundational binaries of the discipline (e.g., oral–literate, traditional–modern) can be traced to its tense relations with materiality.
The conference organizers are interested in exploring this troubled relationship of folklore studies with materiality by juxtaposing it with recent re-orientations to media and (re)mediation in the shared ground between folklore, media, cultural, religious studies, ethnology, and linguistic anthropology. Indeed, the recent proliferation of digital technologies and new media platforms – not to mention our collective embrace of these media during the pandemic – seems to have only foregrounded the material and tangible aspects and effects of various communicative channels, technologies, genres, and media to the extent of introducing new horizons in many disciplines. In folklore studies, we might rethink the material, technological, and mediational nature of the central processes of textualization, traditionalization, and heritagization through which cultural objects (whether intangible or not, textual or not, traditional or not) are decontextualized and objectified for further social circulation, valuation, use, and consumption. They are also interested in broadening discussions on the significance of human and non-human bodies, affects, and sensations – all materialities and mediations in themselves – associated with various vernacular practices. Finally, they encourage methodological discussion on how folklore scholars and ethnographers are themselves bound by various (new) media and technologies of documentation, archiving, and presentation.
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