4 November 2018

Folklore and the Nation

The annual conference of The Folklore Society
Friday 29–Sunday 31 March 2019
University of Derby
United Kingdom

Call for papers—first deadline Sunday 9 December, 2018
The nation surges with newfound rhetorical power. The last 25 years have seen parliamentary devolution, the Scottish independence referendum and the proposed withdrawal from the European Union, all within the UK alone. Yet this is a global drive, manifesting also in diaspora (St Patrick’s Day is now a global celebration) and the everyday, local acts that constitute our reality. In England, for example, it is no longer remarkable to see the St George’s Cross flying outside suburban houses. We are living through a popular move towards national ideologies.

This conference asks how, why and when folklore has been deployed in the context of national ideologies and ideas of nationhood. For some, the lore of the nation has been an instrument to build consensus; for others, a means of excluding. Signs of cultural identity have served to both unite and divide separate polities, whilst diasporas live within two nations at once, the state of residence and the (sometimes imagined) homeland. The conference accommodates the use of folklore in exclusionary and disciplinary deployments of nationalism, whilst remaining open to flexible definitions of nationalism, in the form of solidarity, ethnicity, diaspora and nations within nations.

Of course, folklore has always been connected with the discourse and development of the nation, as demonstrated by collections such as Timothy Baycroft and David Hopkin’s (2012) Folklore and nationalism in Europe during the long nineteenth century. Whilst the folk were considered cultural survivals, of low status in the ranks of civilization, folklore was symbolically important to many national struggles. Ambiguous feelings about tradition—whether it was the authentic voice of the people or a quaint echo of the primitive—drove the historical development of nationalism just as it contributed to the development of the academic discipline of Folklore. Custom, legend and tradition played their part in progressive, Romantic nationalism, as much as they did in promoting the nationalism of totalitarian states. What, then, is traditional about the place of folklore in nationalism, and nationalism in folklore?

This conference welcomes perspectives from Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Ethnology, Ethnomusicology, History, Literary Studies, Sociology and other disciplines. We welcome contemporary and historical understandings of the many connections between folklore and the nation. Contributions might look at the local and the national, links and similarities between nations and the role of gender and sexualities. We are, of course, interested in traditional forms such storytelling, folk song, dance and costume, amongst others. We hope to explore, but are not limited to:
  • Literary and artistic uses of folklore in relation to national ideologies.
  • Relations between ethnicity, nationalism and folklore.
  • Folk heroes.
  • The use of folklore against the nation.
  • The heritage industry and its relationship to nationalism and folklore.
  • The mobilisation and reception of folkloric motifs, items and folkloristics itself, by extremists, both historical and contemporary.
  • Disciplinary questions of resistance. How can, or should we, as folklorists, respond to its uses in such contexts?
  • Vernacular ideologies of myth and narrative in national popular culture.
  • The relationship between nationalism, folklore and media, including the role of the internet and social media.
  • The relationship between folklore, Gramscian ‘common sense’ and hierarchies of knowledge in relation to nationalism.
  • Folklore and Brexit.
  • Folklore, asylum and immigration.
  • The relationship of folkloristics to nationalism and the nation. 
The conference is kindly hosted by the University of Derby at its One Friar Square campus in the centre of the city. There will be a tour of Derby and opportunity to visit the Peak District.

On the Friday evening, at 11pm, the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union. Whether or not this happens, we invite traditional and creative practitioners to contribute responses to the themes of the conference. In the evening, we will hear them in a public house as last orders approaches. 

The first deadline for papers is Sunday 9 December, 2018. Proposals of 100–150 words, for presentations of 20 minutes, should be emailed to: thefolkloresociety@gmail.com and copied to enquiries@folklore-society.com. Please include a brief biographical note, including contact details.

Both members and non-members of The Folklore Society are warmly encouraged to offer papers at this conference.

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