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1. Folklife Studies in American Scholarship Don Yoder Folklife studies (regional ethnology) is a subject of recent development in the United States. Essentially it is the application to the American scene of the European discipline calledfolklivsforskning, or regional ethnology, in the Scandinavian lands (particularly in Sweden where the term folkliv was coined) and Volkskunde in the German-speaking areas of Europe. Folklife studies, or folklife research, has penetrated American academia both directly from the Scandinavian sources and indirectly from the British Isles, where the termfolklife is used for scholarly journals, societies, and university programs.1 The concept of folklife studies was developed in Europe to study the native European cultures, focusing on the traditional aspects of these cultures. As an academic migrant it has come to the American scene at an unusually favorable moment in the development of American scholarship. With the present concern of Americans, particularly American youth, to determine their identity as it relates to ethnic, national, and world loyalties, we are witnessing at our universities a growth of ethnic studies programs, which focus on the experience and acculturation of the diverse groups that make up the American people. Ethnic consciousness is certainly one of the motivating forces for the search evident in the lives of the student population for their meaning in the larger picture. While black consciousness is the most conspicuous of these movements toward self-understanding on the American human landscape, the focus on civil rights and the rights to ethnic heritage and language have aroused many of our ethnic enclaves from the Mexican Americans of the Southwest to the French Canadians of the Northeast. What we are witnessing is in a sense a re-ethnicizing of America, a final ground swell of denial of the old "melting pot" concept of American history, and in its stead a vigorous vote of confidence for the concept of cultural pluralism.2 America will soon be celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of her political birth. The cultural conception of America is of a much earlier date and involves the acculturation ofthree elements without which America cannot be explained—the native American Indian cultures, the European cultures of the emigrants (Oscar Handlin's "uprooted"), and the African cultures of the blacks. These are the peoples that have made the American people, and as such they are, in Ward Goodenough's phrase in the first essay in this volume, the proper focus of American folklife research. By "American" folklife we mean essentially the regional cultures of North America with principal focus upon the United States, but with attention also to our neighbors in the North American experience of organizing New World cultures out of native American and European and African components. These are, in particular, Canada, Mexico, 3 and the Caribbean island nations. Canadian culture is an especially valuable check on American studies, since some of the same ethnic ingredients produced different cultural results there than in the States. Mexico, indeed all Latin America, is of increasing cultural importance to the United States for the understanding of our entire southwestern Spanish culture from Texas to California. The Caribbean, closer to us psychologically in the days of the clipper ships and the triangular trade, which left a deposit of Caribbean street names in our seaport towns and Caribbean foods on our urban tables, has become important once again, among other reasons, as providing additional keys to black acculturation in the United States. At the present moment, it is difficult to define the terms folklife and folklife studies to the satisfaction of all elements interested in the subject matter.3 There are those who, starting withfolklore in its usual AngloAmerican sense, definefolklife by default, as material culture only. This is not the boundary set for it by its European creators. To Sigurd Erixon, folklife research was "the science of [European] man as a cultural being."4 As such Erixon saw it as a regional branch of general anthropology , and in fact he often preferred to call it regional ethnology or, in its wider reaches, European ethnology. Its subject matter involves material , social, and spiritual culture, thus including what in the AngloAmerican world has usually been called folklore. In its methodology "historical, descriptive, and reconstructive studies alternate with functional studies of culture, society, and the individual." The most useful British manual of folklife research defines it broadly as the study of the interaction of man (in this case British man) with his environment, hence, "British ethnography."5 And Richard Weiss of the University...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781477303535
Related ISBN
9780292703087
MARC Record
OCLC
967552937
Pages
312
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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