Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v

Contents

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pp. vi-x

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

Had it not been for the stern advice of more than one friend, I would have relieved my own anxieties by entitling this introduction, “What’s Wrong With This Book?” Better scholars than I have introduced their work with “disclaimers of performance,” even or especially since Richard Bauman first called our attention to the practice (Bauman 1977; Jackson 2013a). In a book called Humble Theory, I cannot help feeling that I have much to be humble...

PART I: THE WORK OF FOLKLORE STUDIES

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1 Humble Theory

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pp. 11-16

Some of you will remember the dictionary definition of the word humble, as propounded by Charlotte the Spider: “not proud and near the ground” (White 1952). Just as Charlotte found the epithet appropriate to Wilbur the Pig, perhaps we can agree that it is appropriate to folklorists and the kind of theory-making to which we should aspire. We who wear the scarlet F upon our bosoms are perhaps in no position to be proud, and for the present I think we should stop worrying about it: we would be better off...

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2 Group

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pp. 17-56

Ideas about group are the most powerful and the most dangerous in folklore studies. Our influence as a discipline has often come from arguing for small groups against big groups. Against imperialism, we argue for the nation-state; denying the homogeneity of the nation-state, we argue for the ethnic group or the social class; at last, wary of the dangers of essentialism at any level, we turn to the face-to-face community.

It is less comfortable to recall that we have also argued for big groups against small groups: for the historical...

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3 The Social Base of Folklore

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pp. 57-94

When the English antiquarian William Thoms coined the word “Folk-Lore” in 1846, he proposed it as a “good Saxon compound” to delineate the field then known as “popular antiquities, or popular literature” (Thoms [1846] 1999, 11). Most readers have noticed the nationalism implicit in this substitution of words derived from Latin. Less attention has been given to the fact of the compound. To be sure, it mimics Germanic word-formation. But it also suggests a tighter semantic cluster than the previous...

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4 Tradition: Three Traditions

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pp. 95-126

As both word and concept, tradition is inescapably ambiguous. Like other keywords of Western modernity, “tradition” circulates between general and scholarly usage and between analytic and ideological applications. Keywords traverse these boundaries most fluidly and thus accumulate most ideological weight when not interrogated too closely. But in the wake of the Second World War and decolonization the problematization of the concept of tradition became unavoidable. Thus it was examined...

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5 Aesthetic is the Opposite of Anaesthetic: On Tradition and Attention

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pp. 127-178

Aesthetics is not my field, as people in other disciplines are allowed to say. Why then am I up here talking? Because Professor Haring had a panel to assemble, because I am a friend and colleague of his, because his series of panels on the Philosophical Foundations of Folklore has illuminated my thinking over the years, and because the intellectual and social process of assembling the panel caught my attention. I was reminded of something I always say to my students. When they hear the word...

PART II: HISTORIES AND ECONOMIES OF TRADITION

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6 Voice in the Provinces: Submission, Recognition, and the Birth of Heritage in Lower Languedoc

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pp. 181-203

In recent years, scholars have described cultural heritage as the product of an economic process that creates value by recoding obsolescence as antiquity and provincialism as difference (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998, Hafstein 2007). But even in the absence of clear economic benefit, local populations often participate eagerly in the conversion of their practices to heritage. One reason is that heritage also derives from a political process. Heritage is a byproduct—the word is chosen advisedly—of identity...

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7 The Work of Redemption: Folk Voice in the Myth of Industrial Development

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pp. 204-224

This quatrain sums up a nineteenth-century European bourgeois myth in which capitalist aggression is redeemed by repetitive feminine labor. Within this myth, folksong is the channel of communication and the medium of social and ideological accomodation between an owner class gendered male and a working class gendered female. The ballad is made to bear the image of the capitalist adventurer. In the mouth of a working woman, the song both seduces the singer herself and reassures its subject...

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8 Festival Pasts and Futures in Catalonia

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pp. 225-251

In a gesture to Catalan nationalism, every guidebook to Barcelona will send you to the Plaça Sant Jaume on Sunday morning to see the sardana, the national dance, in front of the old palace of the Generalitat, the Catalan government. You are instructed to observe the opening of the ring to admit all comers, young and old, known and unknown. The newcomers take up the nearest hands on either side and join the dance, an energetic “pointing” of feet to the rhythms of a cobla, a dark-voiced but strident...

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9 Hardscrabble Academies: Toward a Social Economy of Vernacular Invention

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pp. 252-275

An implicit history of invention is inscribed in the current struggles over intellectual property regimes. In the beginning was the traditional community, the dancing throng from whose movements culture emerged spontaneously, without intention or forethought. (The remaining enclaves of this past should be preserved for science or tourism and out of humanitarian concern for their lingering indigenes.) Next came the modern individual, who in his self-authoring was careful also to create the institutions...

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10 Cultural Warming? Brazil in Berlin

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pp. 276-296

Alexander Stephan’s enduring love-hate relationship with the United States stems from climatological as well as cultural and political factors: he often complains that nowhere in Europe is hot enough for him to live in. To be sure, recent summers suggest that Europe may be getting all too hot. But the continent, and in particular his native Germany, is warming up culturally too, in ways that may suggest an alternative to the Americanization of which he has so thoroughly documented the...

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11 Fairy-Tale Economics: Scarcity, Risk, Choice

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pp. 297-322

Economists tell stories about how people behave. The setup is always the same: an actor is confronted with a choice and must make a decision. Should he (it’s usually a he) take a quick, assured return or wait for a less certain but larger payoff? Should he place his trust in another actor and collaborate for a larger joint profit, or act alone to make sure he is not cheated, so that at any rate he comes away with something? When he’s played the same game for a long time, will he keep paying attention as the next...

PART III: SLOGAN-CONCEPTS AND CULTURAL REGIMES

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12 On Sociocultural Categories

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pp. 325-336

Much has been written about the outdated, ambiguous, embarrassing, stigmatized word that gives the name to our field.1 Folklore is a word we can neither live with nor, apparently, live without. The term is a moving target, impossible to pin down. The folk, to some, denotes a submissive lower class deluded by paternalism and not yet awakened to self-consciousness. To others, folklore is a rich repository of resistance and alternative histories. Folklore can evoke both the pseudoculture imposed by authoritarian...

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13 The Judgment of Solomon: Global Protections for Tradition and the Problem of Community Ownership

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pp. 337-370

In the absence of local knowledge, global judges depend on wisdom. King Solomon, ignorant of the history of the two rival claimants to a baby, was confident of the principle that mothers are naturally loving. Bertolt Brecht, revising the story, argued that the birth mother might not be the best mother, particularly when vested privilege made her overconfident of her entitlements. As a good communist, he mistrusted the Lockean tradition of possessive individualism that equates origins with ownership...

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14 Heritage, Legacy, Zombie: How to Bury the Undead Past

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pp. 371-409

The protagonists of James Dickey’s novel are saved from the consequences of a murder by the construction of a dam. Modern development projects create their own state of exception by making no exceptions. Connections formed by history are sundered by the flood of present necessity. Particularities are forcibly submerged. It is nothing new. In Goethe’s Ur-narrative of development, Faust regretfully leaves his pastoral hosts Baucis and Philemon to be dealt with by henchmen so that his dike building...

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15 Compromised Concepts in Rising Waters: Making the Folk Resilient

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pp. 410-438

The folk belong to place: strictly speaking, to aplace. The rest of us live in time. The project we call modernity split these two asunder—place and time, the folk and ourselves—and ever since it has been trying to pull them back together again. These campaigns of reincorporation are known to us as modernization.1 Classic modernization campaigns conceive of themselves as liquidating a lack that afflicts certain populations. These populations include women, children, poor people, ethnic...

Index

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pp. 439-459

About the Author

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p. 460