Affiliates & Visiting Fellows Program
Roger D. Abrahams Fund
CFE Home
Folklore Home
University of Pennsylvania Home

For more information about the Center for Folklore & Ethnography,at UPenn, contact Professor Mary Hufford at

To be added to the CFE mailing list, contact Joyce Roselle, at

For assistance with the Folklore and Folklife website, contact Linda Lee at

workshops Service Learning Center News Links Contact

Folklore, Aesthetic Ecologies, and the Public Domain

Working List
Resources in Aesthetic Ecology

Abrahams, Roger D. 1986. "Ordinary and Extraordinary Experience" in The Anthropology of Experience, eds. Victor W. Turner and Edward M Bruner, 45-72. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

"Experience addresses the ongoingness of life as it is registered through the filter of culture - that is, through acts we have already learned to interpret as experiences or, in the case of shock, surprise, embarrassment, or trauma, through acts we reprocess as experiences after the fact, by talking about them and thus making them seem less personal, more typical." (p. 55)

"For Erving Goffman, the experience of even the smallest understandings (much less our larger mutual celebrations) seemed like a new rendering of an archaic holy act, one that acknowledges the existence of others and signifies a willingness to be involved in the flow of vital cultural information and, on occasion, to be exuberant in passing on this knowledge as a way of tying together self, others, and the larger worlds." (p. 69)

Allen, Barbara, and Thomas J. Schlereth. 1990. Sense of Place: American Regional Cultures.  Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Basso, Keith. 1996. “Wisdom Sits in Places: Notes on a Western Apache Landscape.” In Senses of Place, ed. Steven Feld and Keith Basso.

Missing from the discipline is a thematized concern with the ways in which citizens of the earth constitute their landscapes and take themselves to be connected to them.  Missing is a desire to fathom the various and variable perspectives from which people know their landscapes, the self-invested viewpoints from which (to borrow Isak Dinesen’s felicitous image [1979]) they embrace the countryside and find the embrace returned. (p. 54)

Bateson, Gregory.  1972. “A Theory of Play and Fantasy.” Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine, pp. 177-193.

Beck, Jane. 1982. Always in Season: Folk Art and Traditional Culture in Vermont.  Montpelier, VT:  Vermont Council on the Arts.

Ben-Amos, Dan. 1984. “The Seven Strands of Tradition: Varieties in Its Meaning in American Folklore Studies.” Journal of Folklore Research 21(2-3):97-131.

Bendix, Regina. 2000.  “The Pleasures of the Ear: Toward an Ethnography of Listening.” Cultural Analysis 1.

How might one go about initiating an ethnography of listening?  Take steps toward an ecology of the senses, their linkages to cognition, their collaboration in providing us with aesthetic pleasure?  Nearly every promising point of entry requires cross-disciplinarity.

If we are to probe the contours of sensory perception and reception and seek to understand the transitions between the individual, cultural and transcultural dimension, as I am urging here, then research methods will be needed that are capable of grasping “the most profound type of knowledge [which] is not spoken of at all” and thus inaccessible to ethnographic observation or interview (Bloch 1998:46).

Berger, John. 1980. “Why Look At Animals?”  About Looking. New York: Pantheon Books, 1-26.

Briggs, Charles. 1988. Competence in Performance: the Creativity of Tradition in Mexicano Verbal Art. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Cadaval, Olivia and Cynthia L. Vidaurri. 2003. El Rio: A Travelling Exhibition Exploring the Relationship Between Traditional Knowledge, Local Culture, and a Sustainable Environment in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Basin. Washington, DC: Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution.

Cantwell, Robert.  1993. Ethnomimesis: Folklife and the Representation of Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Regional identity records and synthesizes, at what is perhaps the ecological limit of the ethnomimetic process, patterns of settlement, cultural retention, and creolization and the accommodation of these historical forces, through economic and attendant social formations, to the natural resources and features. . .that identify a region as such without reference to its political boundaries. (p. 111)

Davis, Susan. 1997. Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Seaworld Experience.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Appreciation of a separate, aesthetic version of nature suppressed awareness of class exploitation and was used to distinguish people from each other and normalize the differences between them.  For example, in the eighteenth century, as Williams argues, the gentry justified their expanding property rights and dominance over the rural poor through artistic practices.  Sculpting nature into country estates, celebrating it in pastoral poetry and painting, manipulating in the form of lovingly landscaped gardens, the wealthy literally naturalized the vast social and economic power they derive from the enclosure of agricultural lands and forests, even while they consolidated their control in the laws and courts. (p. 31)

Dewey, John. 1954 [1927]. The Public and Its Problems. Athens: Ohio University Press.

We lie, as Emerson said, in the lap of an immense intelligence. But that intelligence is dormant and its communications are broken, inarticulate and faint until it possesses the local community as its medium. (p. 219)

Dewey, John. 1934. Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch and Company.

The sources of art in human experience will be learned by him who sees how the tense grace of the ball-player infects the onlooking crowd; who notes the delight of the housewife in tending her plants, and the intent interest of her Goodman in tending the patch of green in front of the house; the zest of the spectator in poking the wood burning on the hearth and in watching the darting flames and crumbling coals. These people, if questioned as to the reason for their actions, would doubtless return reasonable answers. (p. 5)

Dorst, John. 2002. Framing the Wild: Animals on Display. Laramie: University of Wyoming Art Museum.

With the coming of the intellectual and material revolutions in 18th and 19th century Europe, Berger argues, the age-old relationship between humans and animals disappears, except in nostalgic reverie, and is replaced by a relationship that marginalizes animals into the categories of raw material, machine, and... display artifact.... Within [the frame of display], “animals are always the observed. The fact that they can observe us has lost all significance.” (p. 4, citing Berger, 1980, p. 14).

Feld, Steven and Keith H. Basso. 1996. Senses of Place. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.

Glassie, Henry. 1982. Passing the Time in Ballymenone: Culture and History of an Ulster Community.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

----------. 2000. Vernacular Architecture. Philadelphia: Material Culture and Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Environmentally efficient, thatch is also beautiful.  Looking downhill at a house he had recently roofed, Tommy Love said, “When it is new with straw, it shines like gold.  The sun glints off it, and it is lovely.  It is lovely, right enough.”

Efficient and beautiful, thatching is also economical.  Its main demand is time, and in Ballymenone they say that the man who made time made plenty.  Thatch also requires a knowledge of growing things, the understanding of seeds and soil and weather that farmers develop during time passed in place. (p. 26)

Hufford, David. 1983. “The Supernatural and the Sociology of Knowledge: Explaining Academic Belief.” New York Folklore Quarterly. 9 (1/2): 21-30.

Hufford, Mary. 1990. “’One Reason God Made Trees:’ The Form and Ecology of the Barnegat Bay Sneakbox.” In Allen and Schlereth, eds. Sense of Place: American Regional Cultures.  Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. 

“He was the type of fellow that thought like a duck. He thought like a duck. He just knew every move they were gonna make. In other words, we’d sit there, gunning, and have the stools [decoys] out, and in would come some ducks. And they wouldn’t come in just the way he wanted em. Just exactly right. You could kill em, but he says, ‘They gotta do better than that.’ And he would go out and he’d take this stool here and put it there, and this stool here and set it back there, and the next time they’d almost light in your lap….He just thought like a duck all the time.” (Ed Hazelton, quoted in Hufford, p. 53)

Hymes, Dell. 1975. “Folklore’s Nature and the Sun’s Myth.” Journal of American Folklore 88: 345-69.

I have thought that the true problem of aesthetic experience as part of life would be posed by a study of the state of the arts in Florence – not Florence, Italy, on the Mediterranean, but the small town on the Oregon coast at the mouth of the Siuslaw River. Or by an accounting of the satisfaction in the voice of Mrs. Blanche Tohet of Warm Springs, Oregon, when, having finished fixing eels to dry one evening, she stood back, looking at them strung on a long line, and said, “There, int [sic] that beautiful?” (p. 346).  

James, William. [1984]. "On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings" in William James: The Essential Writings, ed. Bruce Wilshire, 326-342. Albany: SUNY Press.

Jones, Suzi. 1980. Webfoots and Bunchgrassers: Folk Art of the Oregon Country. Portland: Oregon Arts Commission.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. 1998. “Disputing Taste.” In Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

What is the nature of the imagination at work in the creation of the Mince-O-Matic chopper and its hypertrophy of mechanical wit or the plastic honey bear – “poetry in plastic,. . .a bear filled to the eyebrows with his favorite food” – or aerosol cheese, the apotheosis of processed food, or most recently molds that grow vegetables in the shape of celebrities like Elvis?  (p. 267)

Kurin, Richard. 1997. Reflections of a Culture Broker: A View from the Smithsonian.  Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Linzee, Jill and Michael P. Chaney. 1997.  Deeply Rooted: New Hampshire Traditions in Wood. (Introduction by Burt Feintuch). Durham: Art Gallery, University of New Hampshire.

McDermott, John. 1969. “Deprivation and Celebration: Suggestions for an Aesthetic Ecology.” In James M. Edie, ed. New Essays in Phenomenology: Studies in the Philosophy of Experience, pp. 116-130.  Chicago: Quadrangle Books.

This isolated line and the isolated fish alike are living beings with forces peculiar to them, though latent . . .  But the voice of these latent forces is faint and limited.  It is the environment of the line and the fish that brings about a miracle: the latent forces have become dynamic.  The environment is the composition, profound.  Instead of a low voice, one hears a choir.  The latent forces have become dynamic.  The environment is the composition. (Wassily Kandinsky, quoted in McDermott, p. 116).

Miska, Maxine and I. Sheldon Posen.  1983. Tradition and Community in the Urban Neighborhood. Brooklyn: Brooklyn Education and Cultural Alliance.

Moonsammy, Rita, David Steven Cohen, Lorraine E. Williams, eds. 1987. Pinelands Folklife: Tradition, Community, and Environment. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Muthukumaraswamy, M.D.  2000.  “Finding Ecological Citizenship Inside the Archives of Pain: Famine Folklore.” Indian Folklife.  (Special issue on Ecological Citizenship). 1 (3): 3-4. 

----------. 2002.  “NFSC folk Festival, March 2002: Oral Narratives, Folk Paintings, usical Instruments and Puppetry of India.” Indian Folklife  1:3 (January), 3-4.

The true task of the folklorist ... is to restore his specialized idiom to communal, collective structures, which underlie speech, language and artistic expressions. (3)

Paredes, Americo. 1958. “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and Its Hero. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Prosterman, Leslie. 1995. Ordinary Life, Festival Days: Aesthetics in the Midwestern County Fair Smithsonian

"The nature of the aesthetic here is determined by its use in the community and the meaningfulness in context, as finally stated by a livestockman at the Champaign County Fair:

Well, you talk about beauty.

I was walking with a young woman from Chicago and we stopped to look at some wheat fields. It was the end of the summer and they were full of wheat.

And she said to me, look at that, all golden and shining. Isn't that a beautiful sight? Isn't that pretty?

And I said, yes that's certainly pretty. But that would be more beautiful in my eyes if that field of wheat were scythed and stacked into sheaves.

That would be a beautiful wheat field."

Reid, Herbert and Betsy Taylor. 2003. “John Dewey’s Aesthetic Ecology of Public Intelligence and the Grounding of Civic Environmentalism.” Ethics and the Environment (Special Issue on Art) 8: 74-92.

We call this power ‘cosmogenic agency’ – or the labor of conjuring a ‘cosmos’ out of ‘univers’ and of ‘consenting’ to one’s constitution by and in the matrices of world and mortal time. Within the space-based logics of universe and the universal, the relationship of individual and matrix is ‘flat’ because the individual can be infinitely resituated and rotated insofar as it can be relocated according to calculable coordinates – which are themselves infinitely replicable in all locations where those calculative logics obtain.  In cosmogenesis, the relationship of individual and matrix is deep and full.  It is simplest to say that this logic is the logic of place and narrative. (p. 86)

Schneider, Jane. 1991. "Spirits and the Spirit of Capitalism" in Religious Regimes and State-Formation: Perspectives from European Ethnology, ed. E.R. Wolf, 24-54.

Sciorra, Joseph. 1996. “Return to the Future: Puerto Rican Vernacular Architecture in New York City.” In Anthony King, ed. Representing the City: Ethnicity, Capital and Culture in the 21st Century Metropolis, pp. 60-90. London: Macmillan Press.

Siporin, Steve. 1984.  "We Came to Where We Were Supposed to Be:" Folk Art of Idaho.  Boise: Idaho Commission on the Arts.

Taylor, Betsy.  2002. “Public Folklore, Nation-building, and Regional Others.” Indian Folklore Research Journal.  1 (2): 1-28.

Public folklore has much to contribute, not just to the expansion of the public sphere, but to a regrounding of public creativity in the enabling conditions from which public culture springs, and on which it depends.  Muthukumaraswamy says that the ‘true task of the folklorist.. .is to restore his specialized idiom to communal, collective structures, which underlie speech, language and artistic expressions’ (2002:3).  These formative structures constitute what Cantwell calls the ‘marrow of culture’(1993) – that shared life-world that provides the creative powers from which the architectonic structures and metanarratives of public culture emerge – as bone arises from, and protects, marrow.  (p. 4)

Titon, Jeff Todd. 1988. Powerhouse for God: Speech, Chant, and Song in an Appalachian Baptist Church.  Austin: University of Texas Press.  

After saving money from their factory jobs or inheriting a portion of their parents’ estate, they bought lots on the outskirts of town and next to their houses they built farm outbuildings from sawn planks just as their fathers had done before them. (p. 138)

Yocom, Margaret and Kathleen Mundell. 1999. Working the Woods. Augusta, Maine:
Maine Arts Commission.

Young, Katharine. 1997. Presence in the Flesh: The Body in Medicine. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

. . .folklore, the study of forms of thought that have become typified within a discourse.  (p. 2)

<< Return to the previous page