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 home >> online collections >> event archive >> botkin lecture archive >> 2010 botkin lectures

2010 Botkin Lectures

Online Archive of Past Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lectures

All of the materials from the Botkin Lectures are available to visitors in the Folklife Reading Room. Selected materials will be made available online as digital versions become available. Scroll down to see available webcasts and event flyer essays for the 2010 season.

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David Warren Steel
David Warren Steel
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October 21, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

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Makers of the Sacred Harp book cover
Makers of the Sacred Harp book cover.
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Makers of the Sacred Harp, presented by David Warren Steel, University of Mississippi.

Read the flyer essay

View the Webcast Running time 00:47:28

David Warren Steel, associate professor of music and southern culture at the University of Mississippi, has been singing in the Sacred Harp since 1972. A graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan, he edited the collected works of early American composers Stephen Jenks and Daniel Belknap. He was an editor of The Sacred Harp, 1991 Edition, and provided liner notes for several recordings of Sacred Harp music; he has taught at Camp Fasola, a residential singing school, and appears in the documentary film Awake My Soul. He will discuss his book, The Makers of the Sacred Harp, newly published by the University of Illinois Press.

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Lee Haring
Lee Haring
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September 22, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Translating Africa in Global Contexts, presented by Lee Haring, professor emeritus of English at Brooklyn College.

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 01:07:13

Although African myths and folktales have long been trivialized as childish, translators today are revealing new insights, which show that Africa led the world in the invention of the most sophisticated literary styles. Critics now particularly value the figurality, or use of metaphor, which dominates the African literary imagination. The ethics and politics of translating African oral literature, or folklore, are a microcosm of ethical and political problems around the world. Populations of the Indian Ocean islands, almost unknown in the English speaking world, are loyal to the traditions they inherited from their slave ancestors, thus attesting to the power of the African imagination, but they rely on those traditions to help them negotiate the flow of money, imagery, and music, which we call globalization. This talk will advocate for clearer understanding of such remote cultures.

Lee Haring, PhD, conducted folklore research for thirty years in the islands of the Southwest Indian Ocean: Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion, and the Comoros. His most recent book is a collection of the region's folktales, titled Stars and Keys. He has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, the Universities of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. 

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Debra Lattanzi Shutika
Debra Lattanzi Shutika
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August 12, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Place and the Politics of Belonging, presented by Debra Lattanzi Shutika, George Mason University.

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 00:38:31

Debra Lattanzi Shutika teaches courses in Myth and Literature and Ethnographic Writing in the English Department of George Mason University. She earned a PhD in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. She has done ethnographic research in the Mexican community in the town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and in the hometown of many of its residents, Textitlán, Guanajuato, Mexico. This research is the subject of her forthcoming book from University of California Press: Beyond the Borderlands: Mexican Migration, New Destinations, and the Sense of Place. In addition to teaching, she is currently directing a study of immigration and assimilation in Northern Virginia at George Mason University. She writes a blog focusing on ethnographic perspectives on US immigration issues: The Gringa.External Link

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Bau Graves
Bau Graves (foreground) playing the button accordion. Photo courtesy of Bau Graves.
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July 22, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Cultural Democracy in a Time of Diminished Resources, presented by Bau Graves, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago.

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 00:51:07

Simply stated, "Cultural Democracy" is the notion that everybody's heritage and cultural expression is worthwhile and deserving of an equitable share of whatever resources are available. In recent years, Cultural Democracy has also gained traction as a descriptor for the whole realm of participatory, community-centered arts activities, practiced by millions of Americans everyday in their homes, backyards, public parks, places of worship, schools — pretty much everywhere except in the designated art spaces of our museums and concert halls, where they happen infrequently.

The mechanisms that we have inherited for the support of public culture were inspired by the practices of the fine arts economy of the first half of the 20th century, and were designed to validate curatorial authority. This is the top-down version of culture. Financial and programmatic decision-making is vested in highly-trained, credentialed individuals who are positioned to determine what the entire community should see, hear and experience. Cultural Democracy requires a paradigm shift away from this curatorial model, and towards a process of continuous and intense community engagement, using culture as a catalyst for addressing social issues: art of the people, made by the people, and presented for the people.

James Bau Graves is Executive Director of the Old Town School of Folk Music, in Chicago, Illinois, the largest community school of the arts in the United States. His work is focused on exploration of the personal, political, aesthetic and ethical issues embedded in the concept and practice of public culture. He is the past Director of the Jefferson Center Foundation, in Roanoke, Virginia, and co-founder of the Center for Cultural Exchange in Maine, where he facilitated the creation of an extended series of programs, in close collaboration with community groups and artists, addressing grass roots cultural aspirations, questions of identity and social/financial power relations. Bau's work as a field researcher, arts presenter, community organizer, project manager and tour director has been prolific, winning numerous awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wallace Foundation, Americans for the Arts' Animating Democracy program, the Rockefeller Foundation, and many others. Bau has performed and recorded with several jazz and traditional music ensembles, and composed original scores for two collaborative projects with dancer/director Ann Carlson. He holds a Masters degree in ethnomusicology from Tufts University, has published essays concerning cultural issues in both the academic and popular press, and has appeared on and/or produced numerous recordings. Bau Graves' first book, Cultural Democracy, was published in 2005 by the University of Illinois Press.

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Rich Remsberg
Rich Remsberg discusses his recent book, Hard Luck Blues: Roots Music Photographs from the Great Depression, at the Library of Congress. June 2, 2010. Photo by Megan Halsband.
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June 2, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Hard Luck Blues: Roots Music Photographs from the Great Depression, book launch with Rich Remsberg, Documentarian & Author. Presented in cooperation with the Center for the Book, Library of Congress.

(there was no event flyer for this presentation)

View the webcast Running time 00:59:35

Showcasing American music and music making during the Great Depression, Hard Luck Blues presents more than two hundred photographs created by the New Deal's Farm Security Administration photography program. With an appreciation for the amateur and the local, FSA photographers depicted a range of musicians sharing the regular music of everyday life, from informal songs in migrant work camps, farmers' homes, barn dances, and on street corners to organized performances at church revivals, dance halls, and community festivals. Captured across the nation from the northeast to the southwest, the images document the last generation of musicians who learned to play without the influence of recorded sound, as well as some of the pioneers of Chicago's rhythm and blues scene and the first years of amplified instruments. The best visual representation of American roots music performance during the Depression era, Hard Luck Blues features photographs by Jack Delano, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Marion Post Wolcott, and others.

Rich Remsberg is an Emmy Award-winning archival image researcher who works primarily on PBS documentaries, including programs for American Masters, American Experience, and NOVA. His credits include Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, Woody Guthrie: Ain't Got No Home, and the Grammy-nominated CD box set People Take Warning! As a photographer, his work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek.com, the Christian Science Monitor, and No Depression, and he is the author and photographer of Riders For God: The Story of a Christian Motorcycle Gang.

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Bob Rychlik
Bob Rychlik.
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May 27, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Folk Music from the Slovak Mountains: Lecture/Demonstration of the Fujara and Other Overtone Flutes, presented by Bob Rychlik in conjunction with the American Musical Instrument SocietyExternal Link Annual Meeting and in cooperation with the Music Division, Library of Congress.

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 01:03:07

The fujara is the largest member of the overtone flute family. It developed in the seclusion of the Slovakian mountains, and, until recently, was barely known outside Slovakia. Even today, only a small number of traditional musicians play the instrument, and only a handful of craftsmen know how to make it. However, since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the fujara has been "discovered" by the rest of the music world, and an increasing number of musicians and listeners are embracing this magnificent "Queen of the flutes." The fujara's imposing size, (up to six feet long), and the intricate decorations on the flute's surface draw immediate attention, but listeners only begin to understand the true uniqueness of the fujara after hearing the first tones of its meditative, soulful, and overtone-rich voice.

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Dušan Holik and Bob Rychlik playing fujara
(Left to right) Dušan Holik and Bob Rychlik playing fujara at the Maryland Fujara Workshop, June 10, 2006. Photo courtesy of Bob Rychlik.
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The fujara was originally developed and played by Slovak shepherds. Its unique voice was used to play slow, lyrical, melancholic folk melodies, which the fujarist played in alternation with sung lyrics about various topics: shepherds' daily routines and hard lives; love; the beauty of nature; and the adventures, capture, and execution of forest outlaws. In this presentation, Bob Rychlik will demonstrate the fujara's versatility by playing examples from the traditional repertoire as well as classical and contemporary music, including several of his own compositions.

Multi-instrumentalist Bohuslav "Bob" Rychlik was born in Czechoslovakia, where he fell in love with the acoustic guitar, and later, the 5-string banjo. He taught classical guitar, studied various folk and blues finger-picking guitar styles, established several country and bluegrass groups, and organized musical gatherings and festivals even prior to moving to America in 1984. He received his first fujara as a gift from Slovak friends in 1999. After mastering the instrument, he started sharing its beauty with others. He has played the fujara with the modern dance troupe CityDance, and has given over 70 fujara and overtone flute performances at folk festivals and Czech and Slovak events. Bob became the first foreign member of the exclusive "Fujarasi" guild in Slovakia, recorded his first CD, Ideas with Fujara, and was featured on Czech and American TV and Czech and Slovak radio.

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John Szwed
John Szwed.
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May 5, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Alan Lomax — The Man Who Recorded the World: A Bio-Ethnography, presented by John Szwed, John M. Musser Professor of Anthropology, African American Studies, Music, and American Studies at Yale University.

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 01:01:01

It seems odd that no biography of Alan Lomax was written before now, especially given that many of the folk music performers whom Lomax discovered have had biographies of their own. True, Lomax was not a well known performer like Pete Seeger. He never held an academic post or a high government position, nor did he receive international or even national awards for his work until the very end of his life. But he was arguably one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century, a man who changed how everyone heard music and even how they viewed America. When he died, newspaper and TV news reporters pointed out that he had been a musicologist, archivist, singer, DJ, filmmaker, photographer, author of 19 books, producer of dozens of radio, TV, video, and concert programs and hundreds of recordings, in addition to being the world's most famous folklorist. They might have added that he was also an anthropologist, political activist, lobbyist, and in his later years, something of a social theorist in the grand tradition of the nineteenth century.

John F. Szwed (Ph.D., Ohio State 1965) is the John M. Musser Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies, Emeritus at Yale University. His work includes studies of Newfoundland, the Georgia Sea Islands, and Trinidad. From 1969-74, he was the Director of the Center for Urban Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania. A member of the Yale faculty since 1982, Professor Szwed has been Director of Graduate Studies in Anthropology and Acting Chair of African and African-American Studies. His research interests include creolization in the arts, folk music, and film noir. Szwed is also a musician and record producer and is President of Brilliant Corners, a non-profit music production company based in New York City. His recent publications include Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America's Soul (2005); Crossovers: Essays in Race, Music, and American Culture (2005); Doctor Jazz (2005), a book included with Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings with Alan Lomax (2005), for which he was awarded a 2005 Grammy; So What: The Life of Miles Davis (2004); and Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (1998). He is currently Professor of Music and Jazz Studies at Columbia University.

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Maribel Alvarez
Maribel Alvarez
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April 21, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

"And Wheat Completed the Cycle": Flour Mills, Social Memory, and Industrial Culture in Sonora, Mexico, presented by Maribel Alvarez, Department of English, University of Arizona.

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 00:59:31

"The abandoned flour mills throughout the region," said a Mexican researcher interviewed during fieldwork in northern Mexico, "are the equivalent for Sonorans of the pyramids in Central Mexico."

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wheat
Wheat. Sonoro, Mexico.
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In this talk about her research as a Fulbright Fellow in Sonora, Mexico for the last nine months, folklorist and anthropologist Maribel Alvarez explores the role of wheat — a grain introduced by the Spanish to Mexico in the 16th century — as a central element in the construction of a distinct regional identity that prides itself on a simultaneous, and often contradictory, association with tradition AND modernity. As an alternative to the corn-based cultures of Mesoamerica and the ancient Southwest, Alvarez's work interrogates the role of social memory, desire, and nostalgia in relationship to the invention of patrimony. Her research on wheat embraces a multidisciplinary approach that illuminates in both scholarly and popular ways the existence of a "wheat-based worldview" in Sonora expressed through what Sonorans eat, how they talk, how they labor, and what they deem to be the greatest contribution of Sonoran farmers to humanity.

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Bruce Jackson
Bruce Jackson
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March 25, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Folklore and Seeing: Photographs from Cummins Prison, 1915-2010, an illustrated lecture by Bruce Jackson, University at Buffalo.

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 00:55:28

presented by Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at the University at Buffalo. This lecture is co-sponsored by the Prints and Photographs Division.

In two separate decisions in 1969 and 1970, Holt v. Sarver I and II, U.S. District Judge J. Smith Henley declared the Arkansas prison system unconstitutional on the grounds that it was cruel and unusual punishment. This was the first time a state's prison system had been declared illegal, and the first time that a Federal judge ordered a state to radically change the way it dealt with prisoners. A year later, ethnographer Bruce Jackson, who had previously done a great deal of work in the Texas prison system, made a brief visit to Cummins prison in Grady, Arkansas, to see what the worst prison in the United States looked like.

The following year Jackson visited again, thinking to write about the changes in the prison system as a new administration brought Texas prison culture to Arkansas. But more and more he found himself documenting Cummins visually. In the course of seven visits between 1971 and 1975, he took more than four thousand photographs. Some of these he exhibited and published at the time, but there were two groups of images he could do nothing with. Some of these were shot with a panoramic Widelux camera, and some were found in a drawer at Cummins. In many ways, they were the most interesting images he acquired at Cummins, but the technology then at his disposal didn't permit him to use them. In the past few years, digital technology has changed all that, and Jackson has been able to work with those extraordinary images. In this lecture, he'll talk about his photographic exploration of Cummins, explain how he got access to the prison, and show some of the images, which were captured during fieldwork thirty years ago, and then rescued by today's technology.

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William R. Ferris
William R. Ferris
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February 17, 2010, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm

Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues an illustrated lecture by William R. Ferris, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Read the flyer essay

View the webcast Running time 00:55:26

William R. Ferris is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and an adjunct professor in the Folklore Curriculum. He is associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and is widely recognized as a leader in Southern studies, African-American music and folklore.

He is the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Prior to his role at NEH, Ferris served as the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he was a faculty member for 18 years.

Ferris has written and edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films, most of which deal with African American music and other folklore representing the Mississippi Delta. He co-edited the Pulitzer Prize nominee Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, which contains entries on every aspect of Southern culture and is widely recognized as a major reference work linking popular, folk, and academic cultures.

In this presentation Ferris discusses his book, Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues (University of North Carolina Press, Fall 2009). Select this link for the complete text of this interview External Link on the UNC Press site [pdf 2pp 171kb requires free Adobe Reader External Link software].

Other lectures Co-sponsored by AFC in 2010:

November 3, 2010 7:30-9pm
Two Lectures Co-Sponsored by the Oral History in the Digital Age Project and the American Folklife Center

These lectures, presented as part of the Oral History in the Digital Age External Link conference, are free and open to the public.

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Mark Kornbluh
Mark Kornbluh
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Oral Narratives and Scholarship in the Digital Age, presented by Mark Kornbluh, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences Professor of History, University of Kentucky.

View the webcast of this presentation (The webcast is of both lectures. Running Time 1:21:30)

Over the course of the twentieth century, oral history, the gathering and recording of interviews and memories, was an essential ingredient of this democratization of scholarship.  Oral histories provided vital evidence to allow scholars to move beyond the written records of elites and expand their focus to broader groups and to social and cultural history.

The digital revolution has opened up dramatic new opportunities in this process.  As it is easier than ever to capture the actual voices of people, the oral record is being preserved and made accessible to historians and the broader public at a scale previously unimaginable. Not surprisingly, this revolutionary transformation opens up innumerable questions for the scholar who works with oral evidence.  Who owns the voices put on line? Who controls them? To what purposes can they be used? What establishes the authenticity of oral testimonies? How should they be framed?  To date, most of the scholarly discussion about this topic has focused on legalism. Who owns oral histories? Who has what rights to them? Arguments over human subjects' research and copyright often seem so daunting that they crowd out all other issues.  For the scholar who works with oral sources, legal questions only scratch the surface of the issue. What is at stake is the nature of the scholarly enterprise itself. What is the role of the oral historian? Is he or she an investigator, an interviewer, an ethnologist, an interpreter? Was the person providing information a testifier, a participant, an informant, a collaborator?  What is the relationship of the scholar to oral history in this new age of democratization?   What is the scholar's obligation to both the people they interview and to the scholarly enterprise? 

Mark Lawrence Kornbluh is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at the University of Kentucky. The author of Why America Stopped Voting: The Decline of Participatory Democracy and the Emergence of Modern American Politics, Mark is a modern American political historian.  A pioneer in digital history, he served as co-founder and executive director of H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online and as the founding director of MATRIX: The Center of the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences On-Line at Michigan State University.

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Douglas W. Oard
Douglas W. Oard
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Imagining the Futures of the Spoken Word, presented by Douglas W. Oard, Associate Dean for Research University of Maryland iSchool.

View the webcast of this presentation (The webcast is of both lectures. Running Time 1:21:30)

The pundit Yogi Berra was famously quoted having been reluctant to make predictions, particularly about the future. In this talk, I will do my best to follow that advice, instead asking questions about what futures we might together create to leverage the remarkable technical advances that are washing over us. To do this, we'll start by looking back to the emergence of the World Wide Web, with an eye towards understanding how several developments came together to create new opportunities for interacting with the written word. We'll then pivot off that to think about how technologies for acquiring, storing, manipulating and presenting the spoken word might come together in interesting ways. I'll wrap up the talk by inviting us to think together about the implications of these potentialities for the ways in which we organize our work and serve our society.

Doug Oard is a library educator and technologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he holds joint appointments as Professor in the College of Information Studies (Maryland's iSchool) and in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). Doug is in many ways an unrepentant engineer, with three degrees (Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D.) in Electrical Engineering, but in other ways he is one of us (having, for example, recently served as Associate Dean for Research at Maryland's iSchool). Read more about his work on his website.External Link

 

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