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Politics, Folklore, and Social Justice

The Politics, Folklore, and Social Justice Section of the American Folklore Society has two main purposes: to promote the study of the relationship of folklore to politics and the politics of everyday life, and to provide a voice within the American Folklore Society for issues of social justice and to apply our work with a vision of a more just and equitable world. We have about 70 members. As of our 2012 meeting we began changing our goals somewhat, focusing on becoming a support and resource organization for those of us working at the intersection of folklore and social justice. 

 Membership is open to all, and costs $5. Membership for students is free, and membership is not restricted to AFS members.

What We Do:

We serve as a participatory-driven resource organization for folklorists working at the intersection of cultural studies and social justice. We meet once a year during the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society where we discuss our section-based outreach, the William Still Citation and the David Schuldiner Lecture (see below). During the rest of the year we stay connected online, sharing resource, offering support to one another, keeping the one another posted about what’s happening throughout the field, and encouraging inter-generational support for social justice-oriented folklorists entering the field.

Members of the PFSJ section may also be interested in the work of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Section History:

The section was founded at the AFS meeting in Jacksonville in 1992. Auspiciously, on the very day the section was founded, Rigoberta Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Bill Westerman served as the convener of the section from its inception until stepping down in 2009. Christina Barr and Mario Montaño served as conveners from 2009-2012. Meredith Martin-Moats and Mario Montaño were 2012-14.  Rhonda Dass was convener 2014-21. Jesse A. Fivecoate became convener in 2021.

Section Activities:

Resource Building: 

We are working to build interactive resources to help support folklorists who are, or want to be, working at the intersection of folklore and social justice. This include lists of organizations working in the arena of social justice, information on publications and internships, direction action and organizing, and ongoing discussions focused on theory building and organizing praxis. Please let us know about the work you’re doing so we can add this to our list! If you can devote time to this ongoing effort, please let Meredith know.  

Click here to view the resource list from the 2014 theory-building panel: Building Networks for Social Justice Organizing reading list 

Paper/Panel Sponsorships:

Each year during the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society we sponsor papers and panels that explore concepts of social justice, political action and history. To submit a paper or propose a panal idea, email Rhonda at the link above. 

David Shuldiner Memorial Lectures

In memory of our colleague David Shuldiner, a pioneering folklorist and oral historian, lifelong activist for social justice and human dignity, and founder of the journal Folklore In Use, in 2003 the section inaugurated a series of talks to be delivered at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. The topic will come from an area of David’s professional interests, such as folklore and social struggle, oral history, gerontology, and folk ideology. Shuldiner lecturers are activists, community scholars, or folklorists selected by the section. It’s been a few year since we had a David Shuldiner lecture, but we hope to reinstate the lectures after 2014. If you are interested in helping with this, please contact Rhonda at the email address above. 

William Still Citation:The section annually awards its William Still Citation for lifetime achievement in community cultural work. The award goes to organizations or individuals who have combined traditional arts and culture with a vision for social justice. The award, currently $100 and lifetime honorary membership in the section, goes to an organization in the geographical vicinity of the AFS meeting, so that a representative can meet with folklorists at the conference. Deadline is August 15 of select years. 

Get Involved

Sign in to the AFS Member Portal to join the section and ensure you’re receiving section communications. All of your section involvement can be managed under My Info.

Click here to contribute section dues ($5 regular; student/under-waged — free).


Contact the section conveners at [email protected].

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