Abstracts of papers presented at conferences by graduate students in 2011 and 2012
42nd Annual WKU Student Research Conference
Sarah McCartt-Jackson The Invasion of the Scarecrows and Community Aesthetic Perspectives. Initiated four years ago in October 2007, the Invasion of the Scarecrows event allows Scottsville-Allen County businesses to participate in a contest whereby the businesses build a scarecrow or autumn scene, competing for various prizes. Jointly organized by the Scottsville-Allen County Chamber of Commerce, the Heart of Scottsville, and the City of Scottsville, the invasion serves primarily as an event to attract area residents to the downtown square for shopping, dining, and other economic boosting activities. The scarecrows in the invasion function as both art and artifact and serve as an important aspect of understanding identity and art in relation to community activities. To understand better the decorative and artistic aspects of these scarecrow assemblages and scenes, I view them in the economic, communal, and contested contexts in which they appear and to which they belong.
Rachel Hopkin The Bottle Artist. A bottle whimsey is like a ship in a bottle, except the item in the bottle is not a ship but some other carved wooden object. As a folk art, bottle whimsies have existed for centuries, yet little of a scholarly nature has been written about them. This paper explores the work of a contemporary bottle whimsey maker: Chris Wood taught himself to create the bottles after chancing upon one and becoming fascinated. He also began trading in them as a sideline of his job as an antique dealer. Since many were damaged, he became an restorer of the work of past bottle whimsey masters. As a result, Woodʼs own bottles reflect the history of the form and his own individual creativity. Guided by the folklore scholarship, this paper analyses Woodʼs art in the context of his life and beliefs and with reference to the tradition of which he is a part.
Photo by Tony Liang
Katrina Wynn The Art of Cake Decorating: An Examination of the Art of Callie Christian. In this paper, I will examine the art of one folk artist, Callie Christian, who makes and sells beautiful decorated cakes. Callieʼs cakes are part of a tradition in America where cake holds a central place in life-cycle events. Callieʼs cake decorating is a genre-blurring art that walks the line between art and food, folk art and pop art, and private and public performance. In essence, her cakes are an edible folk art which draws both on popular culture motifs and family and community traditions and which is appreciated in her community through an aesthetic model heavily influenced by mass media.
Photo by Tony Liang
Amber Slaven Anime: Alteration and Invention to the Tale Tradition. While modern advancements can alter the nature of traditional cultural material, they can also assist in the adaptation of that material to suit the differing tastes of new generations. It is obvious that the introduction of cinema and television created a means for the presentation of various cultural outputs in a manner that allowed them to maintain prevalence and take on new dimensions. Therefore, anime (Japanese Animation) acts as a conduit for traditional tales in a way that interacts with the oral tradition. This genre creates shows that act as an animated tale that has the same characteristics and functions as traditional tales. In this paper, I explore the international characteristics of anime, which draws on many sources for the content and settings of tales and for their motifs and themes.
Photo by Yang Liu
Tony Liang (with Yang Liu) Chinese Architecture and Fortune Teller. There is a village located in Southeastern China called Nan Xi Jiang, which belong to the same Chenʼs family over five hundred years. Some people said the dwellings of the family are magic. The architectures have kept bringing good fortune for the family over the five hundred years. In the five hundred years, every generation has some famous people, such as dignitaries and capitalists. In this paper, I use this village as example to talk about traditional Chinese architecture design
Photo by Tony Liang
Rebecca Wilson (session winner!) Miracle on Any Street. According to folklorist Amy Shuman, miracle stories are stories in which amazing coincidences take place, and the coincidence is attributed to the supernatural. According to my grandmother, miracles are "Some things that happened that just could not have been anything else other than the Lord making it happen to help us out." My grandmotherʼs life has been full of miracles, ranging from answered financial need and supernatural feats which defy the very laws of physics, to work assignments.in this paper I compare these miracle stories with Shumanʼs definition, as well as to scholarly work on the definition and use of the memorate in oral tradition.I analyze the form and context of my grandmotherʼs miracle stories to show that her stories do not shrink the world, but instead expand it to include the spiritual realm of the omnipotent.
2012 OSU/IU Folklore Student Conference
Molly Bolick “I Chose to Stay”: A Narrative of Resistance, Transformation, and Empowerment. This paper focuses on a narrative told by Julia Watkins about her civil disobedience, in which one act of social justice activism becomes the means to her own empowerment. In this paper, I follow the ﬂ ow of Julia’s narrative as she told it to me, as she maps her path to transformation by action. I utilize what Debora Kodish (2011:37) calls “existential and experiential authenticity” in discussing what Julia describes as her life before and after her social action. “I chose to stay,” she told me, where “staying” has levels of personal, political, and social meaning. As such, I also explore these layers of meaning in the performance that have shaped the telling and are vital to understanding and interpreting it—Julia’s narrative is a conversation between two activists, two women, two close friends.
Tony (Gongbo) Liang Seeking the Vanishing Mother River: A Brief Introduction of Chinese Paper-cutting and its Current Study. Chinese paper-cutting not only is an art form, but also represents the cultural values of many people throughout China. Chinese paper-cutting and paper-cutting-like art have an over-2600-year history, which started in the Central Plains of China where the Yellow River goes across the plains. The Yellow River is called “the mother river,” and its basin, which is the area of the Central Plain, is called “the cradle of Chinese civilization.” Traditional Chinese papercutting, which used to be performed by women, played an essential role in Chinese women’s life. It was passed from one generation to the next orally and through demonstration. Girls usually learned Chinese paper-cutting when they were four years old from female family members. Paper-cutting did not have any speciﬁ c patterns, even though it had some traditional uses. Artists created paper-cuttings without any restrictions. However, audiences were always able to identify the purpose for each piece. Paper-cutting was a simple way for women to pursue aesthetic needs, while at the same time expressing their attitudes about the society and about their lives as well. Women had no social status in ancient Chinese society, even no salutation. People used to address women as one’s daughter, one’s wife, one’s mother, or one’s mother-in-law. They could never make decisions for themselves and, therefore, had to suffer the psychosocial repercussions. However, in spite of its long history and important social value, paper-cutting started to vanish in China, due to urbanization and industrialization. After the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, China started to pay more attention to intangible culture heritage. I was involved in a project to study and to preserve Chinese paper-cutting. After seven years, this important tradition was listed in the UNESCO Intangible Culture Heritage Lists in 2009. My hope is that this action will help to preserve this human cultural asset.
Sarah McCartt-Jackson “Clogging’s Just Clogging”: Approaches to Vernacular Percussive Dance Study. Because the term clogging often evokes invented tradition framing such as team precision clog-dancing at festivals and in competitions, vernacular percussive dance presents challenges to folklore study. Many question if contemporary clogging is a traditional form, asking if there is a place for dance no longer connected to a traditional past. Ultimately, vernacular percussive dance scholarship should attempt to go to the primary source of tradition change—those practicing vernacular percussive dance. Richard McHargue and his Richard McHargue Cloggers represent an example of a community folk group of cloggers who have a unique style of dance that blends elements of tradition with contemporary standards. This combination within one clogging group in Richmond, Kentucky, raises important questions about how folklorists deﬁ ne, analyze, and frame traditions that are affected by increasing impacts of unconventional or non-traditional forms. This paper compares interviews, literature, and video documentation on vernacular percussive dance (speciﬁ cally, buckdancing, ﬂ atfooting, and clogging) to investigate how vernacular dancers understand their art in their own terms. The fact that many dancers differentiate between buck dancing, buck-and-wing, and clogging indicates their own system of genre classiﬁ cation, which has diagnostic value. I argue that understanding how dancers classify their genres leads to a better understanding of the dancers’ frames and worldviews—especially in relation to tradition. Most signiﬁ cantly, Richard McHargue and his cloggers view their style of clogging as an evolved, but traditional, form of vernacular percussive dance.
Amber Slaven Anime: Alteration and Invention to the Tale Tradition. The creative cultural output of a people is often used to determine, judge, and
make assumptions about the ideas and conventions of the people who created it. This
output can take many forms, including written works, verbal accounts, and artistic
creations. Many of these forms have been altered by modern modes of expression, such
as television, radio and the Internet. While modern advancements can alter the nature
of traditional cultural
material, they can also assist in the adaptation of that material to suit the differing tastes of new generations. It is obvious that the introduction of cinema and television created a means for the presentation of various cultural outputs in a manner that allowed them to maintain prevalence and take on new dimensions. Therefore, anime (Japanese Animation) acts as a conduit for traditional tales in a way that interacts with the oral tradition. This genre creates shows that act as an animated tale that has the same characteristics and functions as traditional tales. In this paper, I aim to explore the international characteristics of anime, which draws on many sources for the content and settings of tales and for their motifs and themes. These characteristics have led to an ever-growing international audience for the consumption of anime. While I acknowledge the Japanese origin and material used in anime, I will explore the relationship between anime and tales in an international vein.
Katrina Wynn I Could Tell Lots Of Stories. Whatever you call it, family narrative, family stories, “family saga” (Boatright 1973), or “family novel” (Wilson 1991), this form of narrative serves an important function in family and cultural life. Family narratives tie families together, entertain, comfort, pass on tradition, present a selected image of the family, express cultural patterns, and inform individual identity. In this paper, I will investigate the functions and evaluative elements of my family’s folklore. I analyze three stories of my mother’s that I feel were signiﬁ cant and representative of my family’s narratives. My aim is to explore not only the stories themselves, but the wider storytelling traditions and contexts in which my family’s narratives are told. Brieﬂ y, I look at the ways my family’s narratives do and do not correlate with the narrative subgenres laid out by Zeitlin’s book on family folklore. Finally, I will look at the interplay between my family’s narratives and my personal narrative of both my family and my identity. Concentrating especially on this last aspect, I will look at how I use my family’s narratives to frame my understanding, interpretation, and presentation of my family and myself. I conclude that family narratives play a vital role for my family because they point to a metanarrative about our family
American Folklore Society 2011 Annual Meeting: Peace, War, Folklore
Jameson, Jennifer M. Finding the Folkways of a Forensic Anthropomorphologist: The Kentucky Yard Art Environment of Cecil and Bet Ison. The "Home for Wayward Babydolls" is a yard art environment at the Eastern Kentucky property of retired archaeologists Cecil and Bet Ison. Through interviews and participant observation, I encountered creative assemblages throughout their site including cosmic mosaics made from bottle caps, collections of discarded baby dolls, and characters built from repurposed materials. The Isons present these works via their tongue-in-cheek narrative of the study of "forensic anthropomorphology," but the art is enhanced by contextual knowledge of their history and tradition. Here, I examine the local, informal, and communal elements exhibited in the folklore process of the Isons and their art.
Slaven, Amber Seal-Folk: Exploring Gender and Family Constructions in Traditional Narratives and Popular Media. Stories about shape-shifting seal-folk ("selkies") offer a complicated look into the dynamics of relationships and gender roles, specifically how they occupy both domestic, female roles and independent lives. Their capture and subsequent marriage creates loving and working relationships that often end in loss and despair within the family. In this paper, I look at the relation of gender roles and family structure as they are presented in both Irish and Scottish folk tales and modern representations, such as The Secret of Roan Inish.
41st Annual WKU Student Research Conference
Bolick, Molly Examining the Lives of Working Women College Students (Dr. Ann Ferrell) In my ethnographic study of working women college students at WKU, I explore how identity is negotiated and maintained in the balancing of work, school and personal life. As an occupational study, I argue that the work of female college students do not fit occupational folklore theoristsʼ qualifications of a “worker.” However, when approached from a feminist perspective, their work proves to not only fit such definitions, but goes beyond them in portraying work as one constituent of a complex, multilayered whole through which identity is actively constructed and continuously maintained.
Miller, James Men in the Kitchen (Dr. Michael Ann Williams) The kitchen and cooking in the domestic realm have long been the space and domain associated with women. Many of the popular male cooks on television are hyper masculine and many books marketed to men are also hyper masculine. There is, however, a growing number of men who are the primary cooks in their homes but do not fit these prevailing ideas of masculinity. This project focuses on the narratives of men who are the primary cooks in their homes though face-to-face interviewing. In this paper I explore the ways in which these men negotiate ideas of space, masculinity, and their relationships while occupying roles and activities not popularly associated with masculinity in our culture.
Slaven, Amber You Think It, I Ink It: The Tattoos of Tim Phelps (Dr. Timothy Evans) Tattooing provides a unique look into the aesthetics of both the tattoo artist and the person receiving the tattoo. Like any other profession, tattooing provides a range of skills, preferences, and attitudes of the tattooist. Tim Phelps, a local tattooist and owner of Age of Reason Tattoos, creates expertly designed and tattooed pieces of art. Utilizing my fieldwork with Phelps, I intend to present tattooing as an aesthetic, a medium crafted on to the body that reflects the skills, personal expression, and context of a tattoo artist. This will also be in conjunction with a broad view of the greater tattooing community.
Student presenters James, Molly, and Amber.
2011 IU/OSU Folklore and Ethnomusicology Graduate Student Conference "Mediating Culture: Experience, Harmony, and Discord."
Barber, Suzanne ‘Frankly, if You’re Comfortable You’re Dying’: Mediating Paradoxical Costuming at Dragon*Con. Dragon*con, which started in 1987, and is held in Atlanta Georgia is now the largest fan run science fiction and fantasy convention. In 2008 alone, Georgia State University estimated that Dragon*Con brought in $25 million dollars of direct economic impact to Atlanta and this year’s convention boasted an estimated 40,000 attendees. One of the many attractions for fans is the prevalence and culture of costuming at Dragon*Con. Many of the women I Interviewed over the four days were quick to observe that their costume referenced a sexist or oppressive view of women. Why then, would they willingly, in a place where they can dress as almost anything, choose to don a costume that one views as negative towards themselves? I discovered that many of my informants would openly acknowledge this paradox but that these costumes offered a dress form that they felt comfortable enough to wear and that far from being oppressive, these reinvented costumes actually worked as a form of agency. In this paper, by focusing on three women in particular, I am looking for the point “when the technology of femininity is used for unintended ends, there is a moment of rupture that can open up new possibilities within the system” (Mendoza-Denton 1996:59). These possibilities are complicated, layered, and highly personal but are almost always used to reconfirm the identity of the woman wearing the costume.
Hall, Matthew Shaping Theory, Bending Method, Tapping New Media: Digital Ethnography and Contemporary Lutherie. A key metaphor circulated amongst contemporary luthiers, or guitar makers, is the notion of “balance” and “responsiveness.” Luthiers mediate theories of tone production, assemblages of organic and inorganic media, and mixed methodologies as they craft their instruments. In order to build guitars which are responsive musical tools, the act of craftsmanship must exist in a state of constant risk. Luthiers negotiate the divide between responsiveness and complete structural failure, weakening the internal bracing structures of their guitars enough to allow for flexibility but falling short of physical compromise. Contemporary luthiers now find themselves in what is often called the second golden era of lutherie, an era of extreme experimentation, tradition evaluation, and immense progress. These experiments, however, often lead to failed instruments. Like lutherie, ethnography is a balance of delicate structure. Employing the concepts of balance and responsiveness, this work will consider modern ethnographic practice and will suggest that ethnography is most responsive when it is “workmanship at risk.” Hypermedia and digital interfaces offer contemporary ethnographers new modes and methods of modeling, storing, and disseminating ethnographic creations beyond traditional print media. Collating the work of Tennessee luthiers, Grant and Cory Batson, I will argue that contemporary ethnographers should match current trends of “humble” theoretical application and theory bricoluering with a willingness to experiment with methodology and new media. I will highlight multimedia nature of ethnographic craftsmanship, past and present, and will argue for ethnographic works which are willing risk failure for greater responsiveness.
Jameson, Jennifer M. Finding the Folkways of a Forensic Anthropomorphologist: The Kentucky Yard Art Environment of Cecil and Bet Ison. In a small village at the western edge of the Kentucky Appalachians, sits the "Home for Wayward Babydolls" - a sort of extended yard art, or art environment stretching widely through the Rowan County property of Cecil and Bet Ison. Cecil, a retired chief archaeologist for the US Forest Service and a veteran of the Vietnam War, calls himself the President of the International Society for Forensic Anthropomorphology, a field and post he created in support of his tonguein- cheek research examining the source of trauma inflicted upon found and discarded baby dolls or “anthropomorphs”. Although this semi-fictional narrative is central to the process and product of their creative bricolage, Cecil and wife Bet continue to build the environment, and with that, their artistic repertoire. As I conducted fieldwork during the fall of 2010, I encountered colorful assemblages interacting with every bit of nature and every structure on their land, including “upholstered” trees, cosmic scenes made from bottle caps, characters carved out of found wood and decorated with recycled items, and gigantic flowers made of scrap metal, to name a few. Cecil and Bet present their creative works publicly through their fantastical created narrative of the study of “forensic anthropomorphology,” but the visual and experiential nature of the art is enhanced by the relatively private contextual knowledge of the Isons’ personal history, and their familial and regional traditions. Through interviews and participant observation, I present a brief ethnographic analysis of the informal, communal, and local elements exhibited in the folklore process of yard artists Cecil and Bet Ison, as well as the extensive participatory network created by their material culture and its partnered oral narrative. In this paper, I explore a dynamic contemporary yard art environment and the artists who build their world, and continue to pass it on.