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Benjamin A. Botkin head and shoulders portrait
Folklorist Benjamin A. Botkin, 1926. Photo courtesy of the Botkin family.
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Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series

Through the Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series, the American Folklife Center (AFC) presents distinguished experts speaking about their research and current issues and best practices in folklore, folklife, ethnomusicology, and related fields. Lectures are recorded for the AFC archive and posted on the Library's website. (See below for list of speakers and topics.) The series honors Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975), a pioneering folklorist who headed the Library's Archive of American Folksong from 1942-1945.


2018 Botkin Lectures


Syriac Chants and Aramaic Christianity in India, Joseph J. Palackal, ethnomusicologist and founder-president of the Christian Musicological Society of India

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Joseph J. Palackal beside a portrait of Jesus
Joseph J. Palackal
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May 31, 2018, Noon – 1:00 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

Aramaic Christianity is an essential component of India's religious diversity. Christian faith came to the shores of South India from its source in West Asia, through the medium of the mother tongue of Jesus and the apostles. Christian Aramaic came to be known as Syriac, and due to unusual historical circumstances its tradition survived in India. In spite of the Syriac churches' decision to translate the liturgies into the vernacular in the 1960s, both the Syriac language and the music associated with it continue to be a part of the cultural legacy of India. This presentation includes a brief lecture, a video and a performance of Syriac chants. It calls for a reconfiguration of the ways in which India has been historically imagined.

Joseph J. Palackal is the founder and president of the Christian Musicological Society of India. He earned a doctorate in ethnomusicology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has contributed articles on Christian music in India to several international publications, including The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. He is principal vocalist for over forty releases in five languages, including Sanskrit and Syriac. He made his debut in New York in the off-Broadway show Nunsense. Currently he is working on a project to revive the sound, memories, and melodies of the Indian version of the Aramaic language.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

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Andrea Graham
Andrea Graham
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The Art of the Hunt, Andrea Graham, University of Wyoming

June 7, Noon – 1:00 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

The folklore and traditions surrounding hunting and fishing are among the most ancient expressions of traditional culture in contemporary America. Although hunting and fishing are not usually seen as artistic pursuits, a closer examination of the handmade tools and gear used, the skills of guides and outfitters, the decorative crafts involved, and the hunting and fishing stories told among hunters reveal an enormous depth of creativity, beauty, and tradition. These traditions remain strong, especially in the American West. In this presentation, Wyoming-based folklorist Andrea Graham discusses her fieldwork among fishers and hunters in the contemporary American West and explores how these traditions maintain, reinforce, and celebrate deeply-rooted elements of place, family, and community life.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

The Theory and Practice of Folklore in Cajun and Creole Louisiana, Barry Jean Ancelet, Professor Emeritus, University of Louisiana

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Barry Jean Ancelet
Barry Jean Ancelet. Photo by Philip Gould
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June 12, Noon – 1:30 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

Folklorist and University of Louisiana Professor Barry Jean Ancelet is a leading scholar, author, expert, and activist in the revival and revitalization of Cajun and Creole music and culture in Louisiana. He has been a leader not only in the academic study of Cajun and Creole folk culture, but in creating archives where the culture has been preserved, and festivals and other programs where the culture has been shared with diverse audiences. He is also a poet, songwriter and singer, and his 2016 CD with Sam Broussard, Broken Promised Land, was nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the Regional Roots Music category.  In this lecture, Ancelet will talk about his career, his fieldwork, and his current research.  Drawing heavily on his fieldwork experiences, his talk will address the relationship between the theory and practice of folklore, between what folklorists think and how they convey the results of that thought to diverse audiences, including academic colleagues, cultural specialists, and the general public. Although some folklorists have seen a dichotomy between thought and action, Ancelet has always seen them as inextricably integrated. He says that while he is "more interested in discussing practice than theory, both are always in play."

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Film Screening: The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia (2009)

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Man sitting on a tightrope
The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia
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June 22, 2018, 8:00 PM
Pickford Auditorium, third floor,
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

This documentary follows the lives of the only surviving performers of Armenian tightrope dancing, Zhora (76 years old) and Knyaz (77 years old) as they struggle to keep this ancient art alive against the current of contemporary society. Once celebrated masters of this art who were rivals in their professional lives, they come together to find student in order to to pass their knowledge on to a new generation. Produced by Vardan Hovhannisyan and directed by Arman Yeritsyan and Inna Sahakyan. This film was a co-production of BARS MEDIA and ITVS International.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Botkin Lecture Series Past Events Archive

Includes descriptions of each lecture, photos, and informational essays from the event flyers. Links to webcasts of lectures are included as available.

2018 Lecture Series

2017 Lecture Series

2016 Lecture Series

2015 Lecture Series

2014 Lecture Series

2013 Lecture Series

2012 Lecture Series

2011 Lecture Series

2010 Lecture Series

2009 Lecture Series

2008 Lecture Series

2007 Lecture Series

2006 Lecture Series

2005 Lecture Series

2004 Lecture Series

 

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   May 14, 2018
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