Monday, March 31, 2008

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.

2 comments:

Maureen said...

guess what word i also put in my CS dictionary :)

Jenni said...

YES!!!! Awesome :)