“Folklore on the Irish Border: A Voice from the Margins”?

On Monday night, March 18th, Ray Cashman discuseds his current work with Packy Jim—an Irish storyteller who turns to traditional narratives to critique the world around him and to push back against marginalization and stigma associated with poverty.

Ray Cashman is Associate Professor of Folklore in the English department of the Ohio State University, with adjunct positions in Anthropology and Comparative Studies.  He specializes in the ethnography of communication, performance studies, and the politics of culture. Having conducted extensive fieldwork in Ireland, north and south, Cashman has published on traditional customs, drama, and rites of passage; oral history, commemoration, memory, and nostalgia; and vernacular negotiations of local, ethnic, sectarian, and political identities.  He is the author of Storytelling on the Northern Irish Border: Characters and Community (2008), which won the Chicago Folklore Prize from the American Folklore Society and the Donald Murphy Award from the American Conference for Irish Studies, and the co-editor (with Tom Mould and Pravina Shukla) of The Individual and Tradition: Folkloristic Perspectives (2011).


Hale visits Elon

March 2011

On March 15, 2011, social anthropologist Lindsay Hale spoke to Elon students about his research on the Umbanda religion in Rio de Janeiro.

Hale has been researching Umbanda and other Afro-Brazilian religions since 1986.  He earned his PhD in 1994 at the University of Texas, Austin, and has taught anthropology and Latin American study courses there since 1995.


Joyce Flueckiger “When the World Becomes Female: Religious Festival in South India”

April 15

Joyce Flueckiger is Professor of Religion at Emory University, author and editor of numerous books on Indian culture and religion, and recipient of the Emory Williams Teaching Award. Flueckiger grew up in India until the age of eighteen, and earned her Ph.D. in South Asian Language and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She specializes in performance studies and anthropology of religion, with a particular interest in gender. She has carried out extensive fieldwork in India, working with both Hindu and Muslim popular traditions. Her latest book is titled In Amma’s Healing Room: Gender & Vernacular Islam in South India (2006). She is also the author of Gender and Genre in the Folklore of Middle India (1996), and is co-editor of and contributor to Oral Epics in India (1989) and Boundaries of the Text: Epic Performances in South and Southeast Asia (1991). Thursday evening she will speak about her current research on the goddess tradition and festival of Gangamma (one of seven village-goddess sisters), based on fieldwork conducted in Tirupati, South India.


NC Folklore Society Annual Meeting

April 4

PERCS co-sponsored the North Carolina Folklore Society Annual meeting, the first time that the meeting was held at Elon. The theme of the conference was “We are all Students of Folklore” and featured some of Elon’s own students. Michael Sadler, Kirsten Rhodes and Clementine Wall presented their findings from a semester in the field in Cowee, North Carolina as part of the pilot PERCS Project.

The Annual Meeting also featured a keynote address from folklorist Tom McGowan and storyteller Orville Hicks and presentations from students from UNC Chapel Hill, Western Carolina University and Duke’s the Center for Documentary Studies.

Cowee Team presents at Southern Anthropological Society

March 14

PERCS students and professors presented their ethnographic research of the Cowee Valley in western North Carolina. PERCS faculty member Lisa Peloquin chaired the panel, titled “Prospectors to Collaborators: Rethinking Ethnography, Undergraduate Research and the South.” Elon students Michael Sadler, Clementine Wall and Kirsten Rhodes reflected on the challenges of collaboration in and out of the field, exploring the complexities of establishing rapport, portraying people in documentary photography, and negotiating power dynamics among an undergraduate research team. Elon professors offered brief remarks to frame the panel. Dr. Peloquin situated the presentations within the context of theory, practice and discourse, anthropology professor Tom Mould discussed institutional collaborations, and School of Education professor Bird Stasz introduced the field project and the community of Cowee.

The work conducted by Sadler, Wall and Rhodes represents the achievements of the first multi-year, interdisciplinary, collaborative research project supported by PERCS: Elon’s Program for Ethnographic Research and Community Studies. The project, led by Bird Stasz, explores the cultural heritage of Cowee North Carolina located in the heart of the Little Tennessee River Valley. For seven months, students and faculty worked with quilters, documented the stories of elders, participated in the preservation of a community general store, and practiced ethnophotograhy.


George Gmelch “The Changing Culture of American Baseball”

April 24

George Gmelch is the Roger Thayer Stone Professor of Anthropology at Union College and a professor of anthropology at the University of San Francisco. He is the author of ten books and numerous articles on Irish Travellers, salmon fisher folk, migrants, tourism, and baseball. He has conducted ethnographic research in Ireland, England, Alaska, Newfoundland, Barbados, and the US and led students on anthropology terms abroad in Ireland, Tasmania and Barbados. His books include Behind the Smile: The Working Lives of Caribbean Tourism; Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball; The Parish Behind God’s Back: The Changing Culture of Rural Barbados (with Sharon Gmelch) Double Passage and Baseball Without Borders. Gmelch used ethnographic research methods to study professional baseball players and talked about how professional baseball in America has changed, reflecting cultural trends in the larger society.

George Gmelch “The Ethnography of Tourism”

April 24

Before his evening talk, George Gmelch met with Elon students to discuss the ethnography of tourism. Drawing upon decades of research on tourism in the Caribbean, some of which is captured in his 2003 book Behind the Smile: The Working Lives of Caribbean Tourism, Gmelch engaged students in an open discussion about the complex intersections of tourism and local cultures. Gmelch also explored the complex cultural politics and learning pedagogies of study abroad and international field schools.


Luke Eric Lassiter, “The Other Side of Middletown: Building Bridges Between Universities and Local Communities through Collaborative Ethnography”

September 13

Luke Eric Lassiter is a professor of humanities and anthropology and Director of the Graduate Humanities Program at Marshall University Graduate College in South Charleston, West Virginia. Author of several books, Lassiter’s research covers such topics as ethnography, language and song, race and ethnicity, performance, social memory, and religion. In 2005, he received the prestigious Margaret Mead Award for his book The Other Side of Middletown: Exploring Muncie’s African American Community, a work that brought faculty, students and community members together to produce a collaborative ethnography of Muncie’s black community. Lassiter has co-authored two books with Elon history professor Clyde Ellis, both of which have been praised for their collaborative spirit. Lassiter spoke about collaborative ethnography, an approach to qualitative research that emphasizes how scholars and local communities can research and write together to advance multicultural understanding and social change.

Video Screening of Middletown Redux

September 11

In preparation for Luke Eric Lassiter’s talk, PERCS held a screening of Middletown Redux, a twenty-six-minute documentary that captures the process of collaboration between Muncie’s black community and Ball State University students and faculty. In their own words, students, faculty and community members comment on the project’s evolution and the relationships formed between the campus and community. This informative and compelling film illustrates the process of creating a rich ethnography out of fieldwork and the rewards of collaborating with local communities.

Brown Bag Lunch Series

February 28

The third PERCS brown bag lunch discussion will take place Wednesday, February 28th from 11:15 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the Sociology and Anthropology Seminar Room. Alexa Darby, assistant professor of psychology, will present her past and current research on teachers’ emotions in educational reform entitled “Discovering teachers’ emotions: uncovering areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in a comprehensive school reform initiative”. Drawing on an analysis of interviews and archival materials from teachers in a high-poverty elementary school, I highlight the critical incidents that evoked emotions for teachers. The findings cluster in two areas: (a) teachers’ emotions fluctuated from positive to negative relative to their perceived increase or decrease in power within the school and classroom, and (b) teachers experienced emotions of fear and excitement in the reconstruction of their professional identity in response to the demands of comprehensive school reform. Darby will engage in a discussion with those present about future projects in this area and possible avenues for using a variety of ethnographic data collection approaches.


Brown Bag Lunch Series

November 2

The second of the PERCS brown bag lunch series will take place Thursday, November 2nd from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Sociology and Anthropology Seminar Room. Tom Mould, assistant professor of anthropology and folklore, will discuss his on-going research on prophetic narratives among Latter-day Saints. For the past 6 months, Mould has conducted ethnographic field research with the LDS community in Alamance County to document their extensive narrative traditions, with particular focus on predictive and prophetic narratives. Preliminary analysis suggests that subtle shifts in attribution and narrative voice have dramatic impact on how a narrative is categorized, interpreted, and used within the community. These shifts serve as watersheds in narrative performance that further reveal LDS views on issues of human agency, interpersonal communication, and hierarchies within the church community. Mould will engage in discussion with those present about his data and possible avenues for further analysis.

Medical Anthropology in the Age of Paul Farmer

October 2

A panel of five medical anthropologists will discuss their scholarship and the work of Paul Farmer. Panelists will be Joan Paluzzi (UNC- Greensboro), who worked for three years for Paul Farmer’s organization, Partners for Health in Boston, Patricia Whelehan (SUNY-Potsdam), whose scholarship focuses on human sexuality and HIV+/AIDS, Kaja Finkler (UNC- Chapel Hill), who has investigated narratives of women in pain in Mexico and biotechnology and kinship in North Carolina, Samantha Solimeo (Duke University), a feminist medical anthropologist who studies aging as a cultural process, and Cassandra White (Georgia State U), whose scholarship explores medical discourses in Brazil.

Brown Bag Lunch Series

September 28

Kimberly Jones, assistant professor of anthropology, will present her research on gender and work in a Brazilian hospital. During six weeks in the summer of 2005, a bi-national team of eight researchers conducted an ethnographic study of women workers in a public university hospital in the interior of Brazil. The team’s methodology included participant observation, focus groups and individual interviews, as well as a visual ethnography of the lives of five workers. Based on preliminary results, the team developed recommendations for improving work conditions in the hospital. An edited volume of articles by members of the team is to be published by the State University of Montes Claros Press in 2007, for which Jones will be writing the introductory chapter. During her discussion, Jones will show the film from the study and facilitate feedback on how best to tell the story of the women workers in the introduction of the book, as well as in an English version of the film.

Premiere Screening of The Weight of a Nation

April 8

The documentary film “The Weight of a Nation” explores the lives of a handful of young Sudanese refugees in America trying to piece together a viable future for themselves, their families back home, and their war-torn nation.

Sudan has been ravaged by the genocide that has been occurring in the Darfur region for the past 2 years. An estimated 400,000 people have died and 1.5 million displaced. This is, sadly, only the most recent atrocity to afflict Sudan. For over 20 years, government soldiers and militias from the North have regularly raided the South, killing, raping and kidnapping its people. Two million people have been killed; 20,000 children escaped. Earlier this year, Francis Bok, one of the children able to escape, spoke to the Elon community about his horrific trials in the Sudan and his efforts to help end the violence there.

“The Weight of a Nation” helps fill in the gaps in the stories told in the mainstream media and in Bok’s compelling memoir. Abraham, Jok, Jacob and Peter—part of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudan—struggle in the United States to carve out satisfying lives for themselves while shouldering the burden of extended families back in the Sudan and of an entire nation in desperate need of aid. This film asks what happens to the few who escaped the killings? What is life after genocide like?

Pravina Shukla, “Art & Dress in Modern India”

March 10

Dr. Pravina Shukla, assistant professor of folklore at Indiana University and author of The Grace of Four Moons: Dress, Adornment and the Art of the Body in Modern India will present a slide lecture on the art of adornment in the Hindu holy city of Banaras, India. She will address issues of gender, age, caste, religion and ethnicity through the exploration of dress and jewelry in everyday life.

Henry Glassie, “A Story of Work and Devotion: The Ethnographer in a Muslim Land”

March 9

Henry Glassie is College Professor of Folklore at Indiana University and serves as Co-Director of Turkish Studies with adjunct appointments in Central Eurasian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and American Studies. Glassie has published 13 books, including Turkish Traditional Art Today, which was named among the notable books of the year by the New York Times, and for which he was honored with the Award for Superior Service by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and the Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. Drawing upon twenty years of ethnographic field study in the cities and villages of modern Turkey, Glassie will use the art of everyday life as an entry into Islamic history, culture and thought.

Terese Stratta, “Using Qualitative Research Methods in Sports Research”

March 6

Dr. Terese M. P. Stratta is currently employed as an Assistant Professor of Sport Management in the Department of Human Performance & Sport Sciences at Winston Salem State University, NC. Dr. Stratta has served as a marketing research consultant for both professional and amateur sport organizations. Her research has focused on cultural meanings across sport contexts, with particular emphasis on the experiences of African American women in the sport industry.