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The Art of Folk Spirit: Prominent folklorists to speak on campus

Art Folk Spirit

April 19 event celebrates the launch of the Global and International Studies minor

The Department of Comparative Cultural Studies on April 19 celebrates the creation of a minor concentration in Global and International Studies minor with a folklore colloquium featuring three ethnography experts.

The organizing theme of the three talks is “community traditions that seek to ‘express the inexpressible’ through creative gestures and works of art,” said event curator Carl Lindahl, Martha Gano Houstoun Research Professor in the Department of English and director of the Houston Folklore Archive.

The three speakers – Henry Glassie, Diane Goldstein and Pravina Shukla – are colleagues at Indiana University and conduct intensive ethnographic research. Each talk will highlight “the local knowledge” of communities in other parts of the world that share commonalities with cultural groups in the Houston area.

“The College welcomes this opportunity for our students and faculty to discuss the global dimensions of culture through the prism of folklore with some of the nation’s preeminent cultural scholars,” said John W. Roberts, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and a past president of the American Folklore Society.

The colloquium begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be held in the Honors College Lounge on the second floor of the M.D. Anderson Library.

Henry Glassie, College Professor Emeritus of Folklore, will speak on “Turkish Spirit: the Art of the Potter in Kütahya,” which highlights ceramics craftsmanship in a city on the Anatolian plateau and the artistic practice of Mehmet Gursoy.

Dr. Glassie is a past president of the American Folklore Society, the 2011 American Council of Learned Societies Haskins Scholar, and author of sixteen books, including three cited by the New York Times as Notable Books of the Year: Passing the Time in Ballymenone, The Spirit of Folk Art, and Turkish Traditional Art Today.

Diane Goldstein, chair of the Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology, will deliver “Shrines, Tragedy, and the Spirit of Resistance,” a talk about ritualistic responses to the accidental drownings of two young boys in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland. As the community clashed with the government over the process of retrieving the boys’ bodies, mourning practices became acts of resistance.

Dr. Goldstein is the current president of the American Folklore Society, past president of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, and an internationally known specialist in folk belief and urban legends about the AIDS disease. Her books include Once Upon a Virus: AIDS Legends and Vernacular Risk Perception and Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore.

Pravina Shukla, associate professor of Folklore, will present “The Art of Indian Bodily Adornment,” which explores the concept of darshan, Sanskrit for “seeing or beholding a deity” and the central role of image in Hindu spiritual and secular life.

Dr. Shukla is associate curator of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and a member of the adjunct faculties of Indiana University’s Department of Anthropology, India Studies program, and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Her first book, The Grace of Four Moons: Dress, Adornment and the Art of the Body in Modern India (2008), explores adornment and body art in the everyday lives of Indians. The book won the 2010 A.K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize for English-language scholarly works on South Asian Studies.

Images from the photographic exhibit, “Seeing the Unseen,” curated by Pat Jasper, director of the Folklife and Traditional Arts program of the Houston Arts Alliance, will accompany the presentations. The exhibition features the visual and ritual arts of Houston area religious communities.

Jasper is a public folklorist, curator and arts administrator. She has served on the executive board of the American Folklore Society and the advisory boards of the Smithsonian Institution Office of Folklife Programs and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C. and The Fund for Folk Culture. She also founded and directed Texas Folklife Resources, a statewide service organization for the folk arts field. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress awarded her a 2011 Archie Green Fellowship to support documentation and analysis the diverse culture of work associated with the Houston port and ship channel.

WHAT: The Art of Folk Spirit
WHEN: Thursday April 19, 2012; 4:30 – 6:30 p.m
WHERE: Honors College Lounge, M.D. Anderson Library,
WHO: Free and open to the public.

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