- Response to "Critical Historiography of the Present" by Jessica Payne
I am very pleased that in this issue Jessica Payne, representing the "next generation" of folklorists, has written a carefully considered and gently nuanced response to my presidential address of September 2002—it is precisely what I had hoped would ensue from my opening volley to this discussion. Her points are all well conceived and articulated, and I agree with her assessment that we need to hear "more difficult, moving, complex, layered stories about the costs of [applied/public] work, the compromises, mistakes, retracings, failures, and successes." Bring them on!
The presidential plenary address is a vehicle for each American Folklore Society president to offer observations from a very particular perspective—be that personal, professional, or both. I took this opportunity to reflect on issues and events that have affected my own career, one that began in the early 1970s, and therefore, might seem too far removed to some who are newer to the field; however, the recounting of selected controversial events and divisive influences of the past was meant to add important information to the historiography of folklore. My stories were not meant to disparage the fine work that has been done, and continues to be done, by folklorists in both the academy and the public sphere; in fact, I hope that my own work would be part of this "moving forward." Rather, my central point in recounting two cautionary tales from our collective past was intended to spur us all to consider our field's actions and reactions to the "hot-button" and cutting-edge issues of today. Some of those issues arise from the U.S. passage of the "Patriot Act," the continued war in Iraq, the passage of a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) convention to protect "intangible cultural resources," and the many debates surrounding intellectual property rights as they relate to traditional knowledge and folklore. Payne and I agree that the field is in a much different place now from where it was in the early 1970s; however, we have hard work ahead to respond effectively to the complex issues of today. My hope is that AFS will be at the forefront to move us forward.
Peggy A. Bulger is the Director of the American Folklife Center, coauthor of South Florida Folklife (1994), and editor of Musical Roots of the South (1992). She has produced many videos and recordings. Bulger has served as Florida State Folk Arts Coordinator (1976–79), Florida Folklife Programs Administrator (1979–89), and program coordinator, director, and senior of.cer for the Southern Arts Federation (1989–99). Most recently, she served as president of the American Folklore Society (2000–2002).