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For more information about the Center for Folklore & Ethnography,at UPenn, contact Professor Mary Hufford at mhufford@sas.upenn.edu.

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Rethinking Regions and Roles

The Horizon: Focus Questions for Roundtable on Context

In a landmark study of public folklore, Robert Cantwell writes: "Our cultural project is to determine our new horizon and, in determining it, to forge a discourse of positive values, beyond mere oppositionalism, from which an effective postmodern politics might follow." How do we explore, imagine, perceive, imply, reshape, get outside of a horizon dominated by the "corporate capitalist spectacle"?

In what spaces and forms of collective expression do we encounter critical, even playful, perspectives on that horizon? What is the role of aesthetic productions/expressive culture in imagining alternative horizons?

How does ethnography and public presentation bring alternative perspectives into spaces of public discourse?

What is the relationship between the festive spaces with which we engage, and public space? How does the concept of "global region" reshape the horizons of state, regional, and national formations against which the field of public folklore becomes visible?

What are the frameworks, explicit or implicit, informing our thinking about identity?

How does the institutionalization of dualisms (nature/culture, academic/public, subjective/objective) and unmarked categories ("development") affect what we do? What do we mean by "community?" What perspective does our work give us on the state of the commons?

How do we relate the discourse that produces community to the sustaining of a geographic commons? Where are new commons emerging? What perspectives are emerging through public folklore on the processes of social and geographic dislocation that have historically formed the backdrop for folklore studies?

The Interstices: Focus Questions for Roundtable on Civic Professionalism

Whereas the first roundtable examines our horizon, this roundtable turns to our anchorage in a diverse array of institutions and takes stock of a range of possibilities for reshaping the ground on which we stand. What can we accomplish from our positioning, as Taylor puts it "on the boundary of local knowledges and institutionalized professions?" Regardless of whether we are positioned in the academy or in a public institution, as folklorists we pivot between government, academy, and the polity.

Where does the academy fit into public folklore? How is our marginality, which many see as a source of weakness, also a strength?

How are we engaging across disciplines, fields, and sectors of society, and what are we doing to institutionalize that engagement?

What are the dangers of limiting ourselves to funding from cultural tracks, and what are the avenues for broadening that resource base?

What is the potential for changing the culture of our institutions from within?

As a discipline distinguished, in Don Brenneis's terms, "at the intersection of language, performance, and social life," folklorists remain centrally concerned with voice and vernacularity, which we encounter and explore in the space of the ethnographic encounter, a space-between that is an inherently public space. What is the contribution of ethnography as practiced by public folklorists to public life?

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