Friday, March 21, 2014

Quotations: Folklore and Anthropology Edition

Call it art or call it folklore, but this is what it is:  a realization of human potential that enables, at once, personal expression and social consequence.  We are born alone, we die alone:  we are, each one of us, individuals.  We are born, we live, we die among others:  we are, all of us, members of society.  That inescapable complexity, the unity in being of the personal and the social, is, at its peak, made sensate in creative acts that allow us to be ourselves, to communicate, to connect with others and build with them social alliances of mutual benefit.  Call it art, call it folklore, but that is what it is:  a momentary fulfillment of what it is to be human.
Henry Glassie, The Stars of Ballymenone

Not only does folklore serve as a kind of autoethnography, a mirror made by the people themselves which reflects a group’s identity, but it also represents valuable data which is relatively free from the outsider observer’s bias...Folklore data, which exists before the investigator arrives on the scene, avoids the difficulties of administering a “Who am I?” questionnaire...Folklore gives a view of a people from the inside-out rather than the outside-in.
Alan Dundes, “Defining Identity through Folklore” 
collected in Folklore Matters

Once a folklorist experienced a festival, he would find it hard to remain unchanged by it.  He might come looking for song texts or stories and nothing else, but all the varied aspects of the festival would overwhelm him, at first merely with their color perhaps but in the end with their interrelated significance.  He could not fail to see that the folk literature he was seeking was intertwined in its living context with song and dance, the song and dance with drama, the drama and dance with costumes and masks, everything else with ritual, and ritual itself with special foods, drinks, sayings, games, and so on back to songs and tales.  Now, the festival itself is closely linked to religion.
Americo Paredes, “Concepts about Folklore in Latin America and the United States”

Here in the shadow of the Empire State building, death and the graveyard are final.  It is such a positive end that we use it as a measure of nothingness and eternity.  We have the quick and the dead.  But in Haiti there is the quick, the dead, and then there are zombies.  This is the way zombies are spoken of:  they are the bodies without souls.  The living dead.  Once they were dead, and after that they were called back to life again.
Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse

What sets the cockfight apart from the ordinary course of life, lifts it from the realm of everyday affairs, and surrounds it with an aura of enlarged importance is not, as functionalist sociology would have it, that it reinforces status discrimination (such reinforcement is hardly necessary in a society where every act proclaims them), but that it provides a metasocial commentary on the whole matter of assorting human beings into fixed hierarchical ranks and then organizing the major part of collective experience around that assortment.  Its function, if you want to call it that, is interpretive:  it is a Balinese reading of the Balinese experience; a story they tell themselves about themselves.
 Clifford Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight"


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