Folklore Studies Research Roundtable
Canadian Society for Traditional Music Conference
The University of Winnipeg - Winnipeg, Manitoba
October 29 - November 1 1998
Round Table: Folklore Studies in Canada
Sunday, November 1 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Chair: Pauline Greenhill
Agenda: This workshop addressed questions of where Folklore Studies should be going in this country. Participants discussed ideas regarding who should be included in a research program on this topic; what areas specifically need to be addressed, as well as individual questions and concerns. Specific leading questions included the following: - Where do you see Folklore Studies in Canada now? - Where should it be in 10 years? 20 years? - (How) could a research program develop this? - Who should be involved? - How can it be funded? - Who wants to participate?
Participants: Pauline Greenhill (Chair), Diane Tye, Anne Lederman, John Leeder, Laurel Osborn, Rachel Anderson, Heather Sparling, Dave Gregory, Sherry Johnson, Carmelle Begin, Rosaleen Gregory, Richard Burleson, Judith Cohen, Allan Kirby, Cory Walter Thorne, George Lyon, Dave Warren, Paddy Tutty, Christy Douwsma, Phil Thomas.
Pauline: Begins with comments of introduction, describing workshop, the questions to be addressed and the manner in which participants are expected to contribute to this session (i.e. going around in a circle once for each question, each individual may choose not to speak if s/he wishes).
Carmelle: Interjects with a reminder about new context of discussions; potential development of a policy on living heritage/oral traditions by Canadian Heritage, and what could result from this meeting due to the fact that findings are of interest to Canadian Heritage.
Pauline: Many are unsure exactly what Folklore Studies is. We need to give a definition to it that is broadly based, regarding traditional and popular culture and expressive communication rather than limited to the perspectives of particular isolated groups (as was stated in the research proposal that was the basis for this workshop discussion). Canadian Heritage is particularly interested in policy regarding Folklore Studies. Pauline asks Carmelle to elaborate on Canadian Heritage's interest.
Carmelle: The interest in Folklore Studies comes from The recommendations on the Safeguarding of Traditional culture and Folklore adopted by UNESCO General Conference in 1989. Folklore Canada was involved in responding to recommendations and as an advocacy group to get action from Canadian Heritage. Catherine Spencer Ross on behalf of Canadian Heritage and in consultation with those involved with Folklore Studies is studying the potential definition of a future policy regarding folklore. Carmelle suggested that interviews with scholars working in this field would provide the most appropriate feedback for future policy definition. Today's workshop findings will be reported to Canadian Heritage as an indication of the current state and future of Folklore Studies in Canada. This could lead to policy definition that could result in future grant money. This money is important to the future of Folklore Studies as SSHRCC funding is not generally abundant in the area of folklore research.
Pauline: Where do you see Folklore Studies now? A primary problem is that the practice of Folklore Studies tends to be under-developed. There is not enough communication between those groups and disciplines who have an interest in Folklore Studies. A second problem is that the definition of Folklore Studies, its theory and analysis, and the teaching of it tend to be dominated by British and American perspectives, excluding the perspectives of Francophones and various ethnic groups extant within Canada.
Diane: Underlining Pauline's comments regarding British and American emphasis within the definition and pedagogy of Folklore Studies. We need to explore other areas of interest that could be brought forward by other groups, disciplines and ethnicities within Canada. To ignore these viewpoints would result in many missed opportunities to broaden the definition and focus of Folklore Studies in Canada.
Allan: Not a folklorist but thought that the Folklore courses he took at Queen's were very balanced and not biased in respect to the over-representation of British and American perspectives.
George: Could someone please define what is implied by saying that American and British perspectives dominate in Folklore Studies?
Pauline: Implies that American/British experience and theory has been used as the model or standard for research and teaching of Folklore in anglophone Canada. Happy to hear this isn't always the case, though it is at MUN.
Anne: There is a definite lack of Canadian materials for teaching Folklore Studies courses. It is definitely out there but not in a usable form (e.g. Fowke, Barbeau materials difficult to locate, in obscure locations) that would provide a general historical survey of the discipline for introductory students. There are also few universities that offer introductory courses in Folklore Studies. There is an appalling general ignorance of Canadian folklore. We need books and recordings which reflect Canadian history and traditions.
Judith: There is a need for more communicative exchange with Francophone communities and researchers. We have no Canadian materials (written and recorded) that could provide a general survey of Canadian Folklore Studies. Up until now, professors of Folklore Studies have had to gather their own materials for teaching because there is no single book which could provide a historical survey of Canadian Folklore Studies. There is also a need to examine theory with other disciplines and groups that have an interest in Folklore Studies and to exchange ideas that would broaden the definition and focus of the discipline.
Cory: Not a Folklorist, interest is mainly in ethnomusicology. The American and British influence is not present just in Folklore Studies. This dominance exists in many areas. There is little focus on the Folklore of indigenous communities in Newfoundland (where he went to school). We need to work with musicians and storytellers and bring them in as part of the pedagogical process.
George: Notes his recent dissatisfaction with the teaching of Folklore Studies in Canada. Not sure exactly why or what it is. Folklore Studies is a marginalized discipline. It is perceived as storytelling (notes the example of Cooper, a critic from literature, who saw Folklore Studies as mere storytelling).
Richard: Need to keep issues of curriculum and what should be taught in Folklore Studies courses separate from larger issues concerning the focus and definition of Folklore Studies as a discipline.
Carmelle: The Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies is definitely collecting much less material than it has in the past. Sound archives were much richer in the first 15 years (e.g. Barbeau) because there were so many collectors. There is only one active folklorist of the four who were employed at the Centre; many have stopped their collecting activities with CCFCS. Says that she, herself, collects less because of administrative duties. It is important to encourage collecting. Changes have also occurred in the direction of collecting. An emphasis has grown in the development of artefact collection and applied research (e.g. exhibitions and museum displays of folk objects rather than the collection of stories and songs). There has also been a change in research direction which has resulted in a greater emphasis upon urban folklore. Folklore has branched out to all areas of the world, not just Canada. Scholars at CCFCS have cultural areas upon which they have focused their studies: Eastern Europe, Southern Europe/ South America, French Canadian, East/South-East Asia, Middle East and Western Asia. Because of budget cutbacks and the wide range of our current study areas, we are less able to give outside contracts to scholars.
Dave G.: Not in folklore studies, a cultural and intellectual historian. In the U.S. and the U.K. there is an emphasis upon rewriting, reconsidering the history of traditional folk music. This did not seem as emphasized in Canada. It could be due to a lack of communication across the country (particularly in the prairies, Quebec and in the maritimes). Folklore could be a very broadly or very narrowly defined discipline depending on who you talk to. Many different groups and disciplines involved in Folklore Studies define it differently depending upon their varied interests. If communication and community between these groups is to be created, there has to be a greater emphasis upon the multi-disciplinary nature of Folklore Studies.
Rosaleen: Canada has an enormous diversity. Can see the problem in defining Folklore across various groups. Can't see the solution of this problem except through improved communication.
Heather: Indiana University has a special focus upon folklore and ethnomusicology that I thought was great. There is no such emphasis or program in Canadian Folklore Studies. Archival information is also hard to access. Had to go to three separate locations without even knowing what was available or if I could access it. There are no consistent indexes or internet summaries of what is available at a particular archive. Need to change archiving so that we can know at a glance which materials are at which places and if they are available for use.
Sherry: Ethnomusicology students are not encouraged to look to Folklore Studies. They are maintained as separate areas. It is assumed in Ethnomusicology that Folklore Studies is a subsection of Ethnomusicology but is not theoretical enough to be considered seriously on its own. There is a definite need for increased interdisciplinary collaboration.
Pauline: Where do you see Folklore Studies in 10 years? In 20 years? See a need to include all groups which have been marginalized in the definition and teaching of Folklore Studies. Need to collaborate and communicate in order to broaden focus and to avoid missing out on research development opportunities.
Diane: There is an increasing malaise within Folklore Studies (partly evidenced by all the people at this table who have vowed that they weren't a part of the discipline). There is a fear that we are all becoming too tired and disenchanted. Saw many enthusiastic and intelligent presentations by students this weekend and at other conferences. We need to make sure to keep our students work and interest alive, to foster and aid in the development of their research and enthusiasm so that there can be a future for Folklore Studies.
Allan: Perhaps Folklore Studies could be introduced to the general public through its inclusion in elementary and secondary curricula? This could be a way to foster the general public's interest and to increase general awareness of what Folklore is and what folklorists do. Perhaps a course in the schools, where storytellers and musicians could come in, would be a start.
Dave W: In respect to the introductory classes in elementary and secondary schools, education budgets would probably not allow it. If there is to be a future (and future funding), however, we do need to legitimize Folklore Studies to the public. There are too many divisions and isolated groups within folklore. This makes its definition confusing for the public. We need to collaborate amongst all these groups to present Folklore Studies as a legitimate multidisciplinary area of study. Perhaps a blanket organization which pulled together all the isolated groups involved in folklore would be a way to collaborate and increasing the profile of Folklore Studies.
John: The sharing of music (like we did last night at the Irish Club) is an important form of communication and collaboration between groups and individuals and should be continued.
Anne: There is no lack of student interest or disciplinary motivation (seen in this conference and others). It comes down to financial support. We are now without much of the funding that had existed for Folklore Studies in the past. Federal, provincial and independent publishers could do more to support Folklore Studies but they are reticent to do so without first being sure that there is an interested market for these publications. Many folklorists cannot continue to work without the support of these funding bodies.
Paddy: Power of lobbying is very important. It is something which could be used to generate interest in and awareness of Folklore Studies.
Judith: Francophones and others have different definitions of Folklore. Many do not want to be included in or as subjects of Folklore Studies (e.g. natives do not want to be studied as an object of folklore, seen as demeaning or placing them in the past rather than in present). In regard to including Folklore Studies in the schools, there is much more integration of Folklore Studies in the U.S. curriculum. The U of T rejected this idea. We need more integration on this subject. In regard to the inaccessibility of archival material, I agree. There is no consistency between places housing archives and their indexes, no system in place.
Cory: Need more interdisciplinary recognition within Folklore Studies. There is a graduate studies program in the Department of Popular Culture Bowling Green Ohio that is very multidisciplinary. It is great for the study of music. Need more of this in Canadian Folklore Studies in Canada.
George: Professionalism in Folklore Studies research has become more and more self- serving. Theory has been used as career-building tokens. Folklore itself has become marginalized, seen as unimportant compared to this. This creates problems for ensuring a future for Folklore Studies.
Richard: The problem goes beyond the semantics of theories and research orientation. We need to address the lack of common definition in Folklore Studies by created a more broadly stated mission statement and definition which can incorporate all of the various groups and topics which fall under Folklore Studies. (Pauline: towards this broader mission statement, CFC changed the title of its journal from A?@ to AEthnologies@). Yes, but that's just one journal, we need a broader mission statement that addresses the discipline and interdisciplinary interests as a whole.
Carmelle: Future collection is very important to the future of Folklore Studies in Canada. Of special importance to collection in the future will be an emphasis upon good methodology and the accessibility of archival materials. Working on making material more accessible, changing it to a more user-friendly system on the internet will be a part of future development. The process of data transference to CD-ROM and internet sources is in progress at the moment (beginning with artifacts and then moving into music and written materials). If Canadian Heritage were more sensitized to Folklore Studies, its importance and its needs, scholars might be able to get more funding.
Dave G.: For the next ten years, in regards to music, we need a comprehensive list of archival sources in Canadian traditional music. We need to what is available and where to find it. This could be in a book or on the net. There could also be a systematically selected list of archival sources on CD. This could create a self-generating market. Once people know that it is available, the demand will snowball.
Rosaleen: Regarding lobbying and education. The Native Friendship Society is a possible source for making Folklore's goals better understood. An education initiative has been put forward in a program where elders and storytellers share their background with low-income children. Something like this could be done in the future to increase awareness of Folklore Studies, bringing people in to share music and stories.
Heather: There is a need to integrate Folklore Studies with Ethnomusicology. Better technology is also an important issue. The richness of students' work is often not recognized nor supported. We need to recognize students who want to do research and who are doing research on their own. There should also be more emphasis on archiving students' work as well as professors. Publishing students' work within professional journals or at least posting it in different venues (e.g. internet) would increase communications between students and professors regarding the varied interests of Folklore students.
Sherry: There is a definite need for more interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work.
Dave G.: An on-line journal would create better communication between students and professors and the many disciplines and groups involved in Folklore Studies.
Christie: We need to make Folklore Studies more accessible to the public. Need the attention of political power for lobbying. Folklore should be integrated into education to make people more aware.
Pauline: Regarding a research program for the future of Folklore Studies in Canada. My primary interest is that research projects such as this create employment opportunities for students.
Allan: Corporate lobbying could be a possible solution for those who could stomach the ideas. The creation of CDs, exhibitions, publications could be fruitfully funded by corporate sponsors. I would be prepared to head a committee in this area.
Dave W.: Need to package folklore as a public service. Corporations want to be seen to be doing something good for the community or the public. They want to have their name involved in something big and important before they will provide funding. This could make the packaging of Folklore and Folklore Studies projects requiring corporate funding more difficult. All the same, government funding is lessening and perhaps corporate funding may be a way to find money in the future.
Anne: We need to integrate the interests and resources that we have now rather than define folklore according to corporate interests.
Judith: program for studying the future of Folklore in Canada should integrate archives, funding, lobbying. We need more suggestions regarding lobbying. We need more interdisciplinarity in programs.
Carmelle: Methodology is important to the quality of future collection. We need to provide more instruction in technology, particularly in sound recording and proper identification/indexing of archival materials. The best research or collecting will be of no use without good-quality raw material.
Dave G.: There is a growing problem with SSHRCC funding. Most disciplines know how to get money from SSHRCC, how to define their goals and interests within certain categories. Folklore Studies has been too disjointed -- with too many varied and isolated groups -- to make use of funding categories within SSHRCC grants. We need to be more organized in order to legitimate Folklore Studies as fundable within SSHRCC criteria.
Heather: There is a need for development along technological lines, particularly in regards to CD-ROM archiving. Need to hire students to develop programs to work with the public, informing them about Folklore Studies. This could publicize the discipline, develop contacts. Museums and universities need to work together as well, creating a link between Folklore Studies scholars and the general public.
Pauline: Who should be involved in a program exploring the future of Folklore Studies in Canada? I think that students, faculty, museums, institutions, elders, those who participate in all areas, should all be involved in the future of Folklore Studies. Who else do you think should be involved in deciding the future of Folklore Studies in Canada?
Anne: Need to be more practical in deciding what the next steps are in the future of this research before deciding who should be involved.
Pauline: That will be the next stage of the research. The premise of this workshop (as outlined in the research proposal I sent to each of you) was to explore ideas for creating a research project that would develop a plan for the future of Folklore Studies in Canada.
Judith: A mission statement is the logical next step.
Richard: As long as it is more than a token mission statement. It should be something that we intend to follow up on and use.
Anne: Interdisciplinary collaboration in a mission statement will promote the legitimization of work done in Folklore Studies as a discipline. It would make the area of Folklore Studies more accessible to the many groups who are already involved in it in some way.
Judith: We should make all research material available in French and English as well.
Pauline: Perhaps First Nations languages as well. Are there any ideas regarding the funding of this research project?
Anne: Corporate funding won't work if it's done in a piecemeal fashion, a book here or a CD there. Ties to big institution and big projects are what corporations want to be associated with (e.g. museums and national projects). It has to be on a grand scale.
Richard: Popular publications on the Winnipeg flood made tons of money. I would like to see a book that profiles Folklore Studies in Canada, one that speaks to the general public. It should be a book that makes Ala vie canadienne@ something that can be distinguished from the U.S. Photos, documents, student publications could be part of this publication. It should be a big, thick, pretty book. (Judith: with a CD included)
George: Money not being plentiful is a result of the political economy. Academic research is increasingly being defined in terms of corporate interests. We don't want corporations to control research. Without political action, however, this could happen.
Heather: There are other way to encourage the collection of archival materials. One example would be the provision of tax deductions for the donation of materials from private collections.
Carmelle: Canadian Heritage is a possible opportunity for funding in the future. Past projects for the development of archival material on CD did not get off the ground. Recently, a private recording company made a production of archival material on CD possible through a Canada Council grant. The company licensed the material in order to privately produce it. This could be a possibility for the future producing of archival material on CD. The only problem, however, is that there is a limit of only one grant per private company per year.
Pauline: If there are other ideas and issues regarding this project that you would like to discuss, please contact me or Diane Tye. There will be a report of this meeting available for all who desire it. If you would like a copy, contact me or Diane.
Anne: Internet discussion lists and email would help for the development of future forums for the discussion of Folklore Studies.