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Culture Works Cover

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Culture Works

Space, Value, and Mobility Across the Neoliberal Americas

By Arlene Davila

Culture Works addresses and critiques an important dimension of the “work of culture,”  an argument made by enthusiasts of creative economies that culture contributes to the GDP, employment, social cohesion, and other forms of neoliberal development. While culture does make important contributions to national and urban economies, the incentives and benefits of participating in this economy are not distributed equally, due to restructuring that neoliberal policies have wrought from the 1980s on, as well as long-standing social structures, such as racism and classism, that breed inequality. The cultural economy promises to make life better, particularly in cities, but not everyone can take advantage of it for decent jobs.

Exposing and challenging the taken-for-granted assumptions around questions of space, value and mobility that are sustained by neoliberal treatments of culture, Culture Works explores some of the hierarchies of cultural workers that these engender, as they play out in a variety of settings, from shopping malls in Puerto Rico and art galleries in New York to tango tourism in Buenos Aires. Noted scholar Arlene Dávila brilliantly reveals how similar dynamics of space, value and mobility come to bear in each location, inspiring particular cultural politics that have repercussions that are both geographically specific, but also ultimately global in scope.

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Dance of Life

Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia

Craig A. Lockard

The rock era is over, according to one pop music expert. Another laments that rock music is "metamorphosed into the musical wallpaper of ten thousand lifts, hotel foyers, shopping centers, airport lounges, and television advertisements that await us in the 1990s." Whatever its current role and significance in Anglo-American society, popular music has been and remains a tremendous social and cultural force in many parts of the world. This book explores the connections between popular music genres and politics in Southeast Asia, with particular emphasis on Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

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Dashiell Hammett and the Movies

William H. Mooney

As the father of the hardboiled detective genre, Dashiell Hammett had a huge influence on Hollywood. Yet, it is easy to forget how adaptable Hammett’s work was, fitting into a variety of genres and inspiring generations of filmmakers.


Dashiell Hammett and the Movies offers the first comprehensive look at Hammett’s broad oeuvre and how it was adapted into films from the 1930s all the way into the 1990s. Film scholar William H. Mooney reveals the wide range of films crafted from the same Hammett novels, as when The Maltese Falcon was filmed first as a pre-Code sexploitation movie, then as a Bette Davis screwball comedy, and finally as the Humphrey Bogart classic. He also considers how Hammett rose to Hollywood fame not through the genre most associated with him, but through a much fizzier concoction, the witty murder mystery The Thin Man. To demonstrate the hold Hammett still has over contemporary filmmakers, the book culminates in an examination of the Coen brothers’ pastiche Miller’s Crossing

Mooney not only provides us with an in-depth analysis of Hammett adaptations, he also chronicles how Hollywood enabled the author’s own rise to stardom, complete with a celebrity romance and a carefully crafted public persona. Giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the complex power relationships, cultural contexts, and production concerns involved in bringing Hammett’s work from the page to the screen, Dashiell Hammett and the Movies offers a fresh take on a literary titan. 

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The Deaf Way

Perspectives from the International Conference on Deaf Culture

Carol J. Erting, Robert C. Johnson, Dorothy L. Smith, and Bruce D. Snider, Editors

The Deaf Way documents the vast scholarly and artistic endeavors that took place in July 1989 when more than 6,000 deaf people from around the world met at Gallaudet University to celebrate Deaf culture. More than 150 articles by world-renowned experts examine every aspect of Deaf life in societies across the globe. This outstanding volume is divided into ten distinct sections: Deaf Culture Around the World, Deaf History, The Study of Sign Language in Society, Diversity in the Deaf Community, Deaf Clubs and Sports, The Deaf Child in the Family, Education, Deaf/Hearing Interaction, Deaf People and the Arts, and Deaf People and Human Rights Issues.

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The Death and Afterlife of Achilles

Jonathan S. Burgess

Achilles’ death—by an arrow shot through the vulnerable heel of the otherwise invincible mythic hero—was as well known in antiquity as the rest of the history of the Trojan War. However, this important event was not described directly in either of the great Homeric epics, the Iliad or the Odyssey. Noted classics scholar Jonathan S. Burgess traces the story of Achilles as represented in other ancient sources in order to offer a deeper understanding of the death and afterlife of the celebrated Greek warrior. Through close readings of additional literary sources and analysis of ancient artwork, such as vase paintings, Burgess uncovers rich accounts of Achilles’ death as well as alternative versions of his afterlife. Taking a neoanalytical approach, Burgess is able to trace the influence of these parallel cultural sources on Homer’s composition of the Iliad. With his keen, original analysis of hitherto untapped literary, iconographical, and archaeological sources, Burgess adds greatly to our understanding of this archetypal mythic hero.

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Death Lore

Texas Rituals, Superstitions, and Legends of the Hereafter

Kenneth L. Untiedt, editor

Death provides us with some of our very best folklore. Some fear it, some embrace it, and most have pretty firm ideas about what happens when we die. Although some people may not want to talk about dying, it’s the only thing that happens to all of us–and there’s no way to get around it. This Publication of the Texas Folklore Society examines the lore of death and whatever happens afterward. The first chapter examines places where people are buried, either permanently or temporarily. Chapter Two features articles about how people die and the rituals associated with funerals and burials. The third chapter explores some of the stranger stories about what happens after we’re gone, and the last chapter offers some philosophical musings about death in general, as well as our connection to those who have gone before.

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Desi Divas

Political Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances

Christine L. Garlough

Desi Divas: Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances is the product of five years of field research with progressive activists associated with the School for Indian Languages and Cultures (SILC), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), the feminist dance collective Post Natyam, and the grassroots feminist political organization South Asian Sisters. Christine L. Garlough explores how traditional cultural forms may be critically appropriated by marginalized groups and used as rhetorical tools to promote deliberation and debate, spur understanding and connection, broaden political engagement, and advance particular social identities. Within this framework she examines how these performance activists advocate a political commitment to both justice and care, to both deliberative discussion and deeper understanding. To consider how this might happen in diasporic performance contexts, Garlough weaves together two lines of thinking. One grows from feminist theory and draws upon a core literature concerning the ethics of care. The other comes from rhetoric, philosophy, and political science literature on recognition and acknowledgment. This dual approach is used to reflect upon South Asian American women's performances that address pressing social problems related to gender inequality, immigration rights, ethnic stereotyping, hate crimes, and religious violence.

Case study chapters address the relatively unknown history of South Asian American rhetorical performances from the early 1800s to the present. Avant-garde feminist performances by the Post Natyam dance collective appropriate women's folk practices and Hindu goddess figures make rhetorical claims about hate crimes against South Asian Americans after 9/11. In Yoni ki Bat (a South Asian American version of The Vagina Monologues) a progressive performer transforms aspects of the Mahabharata narrative to address issues of sexual violence, such as incest and rape. Throughout the volume, Garlough argues that these performers rely on calls for acknowledgment that intertwine calls for justice and care. That is, they embed their testimony in traditional cultural forms to invite interest, reflection, and connection.

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Did You Hear About The Girl Who . . . ?

Contemporary Legends, Folklore, and Human Sexuality

Marianne H. Whatley, Elissa R. Henken

Ever hear the one about the man who wakes up after a chance sexual encounter to discover he's been involuntarily relieved of one of his kidneys? Or the tiny gift-wrapped box from a recently departed lover that reveals a horrible secret? Everyone knows contemporary legends, those barely believable, often lurid, cautionary tales, always told as though they happened to the friend of a friend. Sometimes we pass them on to others unsure of their truthfulness, usually we dismiss them as mere myth. But these far-fetched legends tell us quite a bit about our deepest fears and fantasies.

In fact, a large part of what we know about our bodies we have learned informally, from kids on the playground or colleagues at work, from piecing together the information contained in folk beliefs, jokes and legends. Sexual folklore goes beyond classroom lessons of mechanics to answer many questions about what people actually do and how they do it.

Mariamne H. Whatley and Elissa R. Henken have collected hundreds of sexually-themed stories and jokes from college students in order to tell us what they reveal about our sexual attitudes and show us how they have changed over time. They confront myths and stereotypes about sexual behavior and use folklore as a tool to educate students about sexual health and gender relations. Whether analyzing popular rumors about celebrity emergency room visits or the latest schoolyard jokes, Did You Hear About The Girl Who . . . ? presents these tales in a way that is intriguing and educational.

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Different Drummers

Rhythm and Race in the Americas

Martin Munro

Long a taboo subject among critics, rhythm finally takes center stage in this book's dazzling, wide-ranging examination of diverse black cultures across the New World. Martin Munro’s groundbreaking work traces the central—and contested—role of music in shaping identities, politics, social history, and artistic expression. Starting with enslaved African musicians, Munro takes us to Haiti, Trinidad, the French Caribbean, and to the civil rights era in the United States. Along the way, he highlights such figures as Toussaint Louverture, Jacques Roumain, Jean Price-Mars, The Mighty Sparrow, Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, Joseph Zobel, Daniel Maximin, James Brown, and Amiri Baraka. Bringing to light new connections among black cultures, Munro shows how rhythm has been both a persistent marker of race as well as a dynamic force for change at virtually every major turning point in black New World history.

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DISCOnnections

Popular Music Audiences in Freetown, Sierra Leone

This book offers an intriguing account of the complex and often contradictory relations between music and society in Freetown’s past and present. Blending anthropological thought with ethnographic and historical research, it explores the conjunctures of music practices and social affiliations and the diverse patterns of social dis/connections that music helps to shape, to (re)create, and to defy in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. The first half of the book traces back the changing social relationships and the concurrent changes in the city’s music life from the first days of the colony in the late 18th century up to the turbulent and thriving music scenes in the first decade of the 21st century. Grounded in this comprehensive historiography of Freetown’s socio-musical palimpsest, the second half of the book puts forth a detailed ethnography of social dynamics in the realms of music, calibrating contemporary Freetown’s social polyphony with its musical counterpart.

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