Monday, March 31, 2008

Waiting for Myself to Follow - AFS Paper Proposal

I've just submitted my paper proposal for the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in October. Cross your fingers for me! I loved writing this paper, and hope I get the chance to present it. Here's the short abstract:

Waiting for Myself to Follow: Narrative Reconstructions of the Body
A person’s sense of self and way of being is constructed through a lifetime of sensory input and corporeal encounters with the physical world. The body is so accustomed to itself that action is automatic. But what happens to a person’s sense of self when the body changes, as in the case of significant weight loss? “I keep turning around, and waiting for the rest of myself to follow,” says one woman, after having lost 180 pounds. Storytelling and personal narratives are pivotal in reconstructing body schema and relearning the self after such a significant physical change.

Folklore and Resistance

It's hardly a secret that I am in love with Folklore. And why do I love studying it? Why study folklore at all, actually, in the face of overwhelming social problems, oppressive institutions, and endemic inequalities of race, class, gender, and sexuality? Why not sociology, or cultural studies, instead?

Well, for one thing, I believe that to study folklore is to address all of these issues, in a way that can actually make a difference. Maybe not on a broad scale, but to study Society or Culture as a whole - while certainly important - misses a lot of the reality of everyday life and practices. And within those everyday lives of everyday people, I think we can find a lot of answers, as well as further questions. What made me think of this today is a discussion of "infrapolitics" in Patricia Hill Collins's book Black Sexual Politics. And now we have a new word for the Grad School Vocab Project!
  • Infrapolitics: The hidden behaviors of everyday resistance.
"Despite appearances of consent," she writes, "people challenge inequalities of race, class, gender, and sexuality through conversations, jokes, songs, folklore...and a multitude of everyday behaviors" (49). The study of Folklore is the study of everyday life - one where we can examine these everyday behaviors and resistances without judgment or censure. Rather, we can interpret them, using the words and meanings ascribed to these actions by the people who practice them, and use them to advance communication and understanding within and between individuals and social groups. Moreover, recognizing everyday forms of resistance is an affirmation of the worth of those that enact them, and a recognition of human agency. To study folklore is not to lose sight of institutional systems of oppression. Rather, by emphasizing and celebrating human agency, it is to see the possibility of change.

You can read more about folklore at the AFS web site.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wait, what's that word?

If you're reading this, it's probably because you know me, and you know that I am very big on precision in language - it drives me crazy when I can't think of the exact right word. So you probably know exactly how excited I am to find out that has a Reverse Dictionary!

And um, I found this piece of awesome by reading the Lexico Blog. And yes, I will show my Word Nerd Society membership card upon request. This is what it looks like:

Grad School Vocab Project

Up until about a year ago, I'd always thought of myself as fairly well read, fairly erudite, and as having a fairly large vocabulary. I mean, I did read the dictionary and all (yes, just like Olive in ...Spelling Bee). My illusions were all shattered, however, when I started grad school. Every day I was coming across more and more words that I just didn't know, and couldn't work out from their context alone. Thus was born the Grad School Vocab Project.

The first word, which is my new favorite word, was quotidian. As in, "Some folklorists suggested using Quotidian Studies as the name for the discipline, because clearly, that's easier to explain than Folklore Studies." (Those silly folklorists!) When I got home, I ran to my computer and looked up quotidian. I had to look it up at least three more times, and devise sneaky ways of using it in casual conversation, before I could finally remember what it meant!

Quotidian: Daily or recurring daily. Usual or customary; everyday. Ordinary; commonplace.

Since then, I've been compiling a list of words from reading and discussion that seemed important to know in grad school. It's a work in progress, to be sure, but you can find it all here. I'll keep updating here, too.

Let me know if there are any words you like or feel should be included!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Get your tap shoes Frances: Jenni Spitulnik is posting a blog!

"Why?" You may be asking yourself. "Why does Jenni feel the need to add her voice to the already cacophonous babble?" Well, why not? I'll be posting stuff that I'm glad to know about that you might be interested in too. Stuff that might otherwise slip under the radar (like the "q" in apple). Stuff like:
  • My research;
  • Relevant news and miscellania;
  • Irrelevant but nonetheless interesting news and miscellania;
  • Notable personal, professional, and family updates;
  • An eclectic sampling of the fun to be had on the internet and out in the world;
  • Oh, and, um, probably the occasional picture of my cat.
By way of further introduction to this blog, I am a first year master's candidate in folklore, specializing in the performance of identity, and my research interests include performance, LGBTQ folklore, gender and sexuality, personal narrative, identity construction, family folklore, and folk speech. I also really, really, really love musicals.