Roger Abrahams at Saturday's reception.

Voice / Over
Symposium Honors
Roger D. Abrahams

Center for Folklore and Ethnography's third annual conference honors its founding director, continues discussion of the field's core project


    Dorry Noyes (Ohio State University) makes a point during the Saturday morning session, "Wholes, Fragments, and the Folklorist."

    In honor of the tradition of lively and vigorous dialogue that is one of Roger's legacies to the field, organizers sought to create a "paperless" symposium: instead of reading formal papers, participants were invited to post and respond to short "opening chords" on the conference website, which then fueled the "live" symposium's discussion sessions.


Mary Hufford (U. Penn) and Regina Bendix (Universität Göttingen) listen as Roger Abrahams responds during a symposium session.


    Photography by Meltem Turkoz, Steve Poizat-Newcomb, and Mary Hufford.


Click here for the symposium homepage and cyber discussion board.

Philadelphia, March 22 & 23, 2002– Under the sponsorship of The Center for Folklore and Ethnography (CFE) at the University of Pennsylvania and the Center for Folklore Studies at the Ohio State University, Voice/Over: A Symposium in Honor of Roger D. Abrahams brought widely-dispersed colleagues, former and current students, and friends to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania to honor Dr. Abrahams, the CFE's founding director, on the occasion of his semi-retirement from teaching, and to recognize his wide-ranging and vital contributions to the theory and practice of folklore since the 1960s.

The third in a series of symposia sponsored by the CFE, Voice/Over asked its participants to build upon conversations begun by Roger Abrahams at the Center's inaugural meetings, at which he framed discussions asking folklorists to re-consider questions of cultural translation, exchange, and reproduction. With a focus on the emergence of voice–defined here as the inflection of cultural form with social body–this, the third symposium sought to begin to articulate the next turn in the discipline of folklore studies, and to inspire the next generation of students to carry it forward.

To facilitate these goals, the symposium's convenors–Mary Hufford at the University of Pennsylvania and Dorry Noyes at The Ohio State University–sought a format that would encourage and build upon the tradition of lively discussion and energetic exchange that so distinctively mark Roger Abrahams's teaching and mentoring.

A goal was set: to convene a "paperless" symposium, in which participants could engage in pure conversation, fueled by "opening chords"–meditations, ruminations, arguments and other short disquisitions on current trends, issues, problems, and possible directions for the field of folklore–posted to the Voice/Over website prior to the conference.

With participants arriving from as far as California and Germany, the sessions got off to a lively start early Friday morning, and continued through Saturday evening, interspersed with festivities, debates, performances, toasts, meals, and general conviviality, some of which you'll see pictured here.

Watch this space for further reports and reverberations: the chords struck and the conversations begun at Voice / Over continue to resonate, with projects, ventures, and further improvisations on the verge or in the works.

Click here for more Voice/Over photos.

    Graduate students in Penn's folklore program were invited to open each symposium session with questions drawn from the postings to the conference Website. (A role which earned them the designation "Tweeters," in keeping with the conference's sound metaphor.)

    More senior members of the field were designated "woofers," who then offered their own responses and kept the dialogue going

    Here, Penn Folklore graduate students Steven Reynolds and Kwali Farbes open a Saturday morning session, while "Woofers" Lee Haring (Emeritus, Brooklyn College), Dorry Noyes (OSU), and Dan Ben-Amos (U. Penn) assiduously take notes.

more Voice/Over photos

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