CFP: Folklorists in the Marketplace

Call for Papers
The Folklorist in the Marketplace: The Economics of Folklore and the Folklore of Economics

Folklore and the marketplace, at least in the west, have long eyed each other with unease. The earliest generations of folklorists tended to construct the subject of their study as outside of, or even in direct opposition to, market concerns. Folklore and its active bearers perhaps offered a refuge from the perceived stresses of the capitalist economy, and folk economies a potentially more holistic alternative to the homogeny of the industrial and mass produced. Yet the economic question has in many ways always been folklore’s silent partner.

More recently, folklorists have defined themselves in relation to the marketplace, as fieldworkers writing about it, as brokers acting in it, and as a space, that slips between the metaphorical and the real, in which folklore itself takes place. Meanwhile, forms marked as “folk” have been alternately denigrated and celebrated in multiple marketplaces, often for the same qualities, and the language of folklore has become one of the dialects of marketing. While economists have tended to use the word “folklore” to signal the untrue, some recent studies address how folk traditions, oral and material, may impact development and other economic metrics. Thus, folklorists are already talking about economics and economists are talking about folklore.

This edited volume seeks to place the folklorist into the marketplace and bring these discussions together. Here, we hope to explore how the marketplace and folklore itself have always been integrally linked in ways both productive and subversive. We will probe how folklore can productively comment on economic structures at the micro and macro level and how economic concerns may shape not only the folk groups we study but also the field of folklore itself.

The book will approach the relationship between folklore and economics from two directions: the folklore of economics and the economics of folklore. The first half situates the folklorist into the marketplace itself to give a folklorist’s perspective of economics and economic exchange. Chapters may include ethnographies of those involved in economic transactions as buyers, sellers, and middlemen, from the farmers’ market to the trading floor on Wall Street; folk economies; advertising culture; or a folkloric reading of advertising.

The second half turns the equation around to investigate how folklore itself may be subject to economic influences. Here, chapters may focus on the commercialization of folk tales or other folk forms; the impact of financial pressures on folk display from festival to exhibit to text; the evolving role of the culture broker; or an economic analysis of market levels for folk art.

Please send 500-word abstracts to by 1 May 2015.

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