Bluegrass and ‘White Trash’: A Case Study Concerning the Name ‘Folklore’ and ClassBias
Journal of Folklore Research
Many have questioned whether the word "folklore" accurately describes the aspects of culture that are studied by contemporary folklorists; these recent critiques form the backdrop of this article. Part of this name debate emerged from concerns about the negative effects of "folklore" stereotypes on the scholarly and professional field. Clearly, the word "folklore" can conjure stereotypical and class-biased images for some who hear the term. This attitude-spoken or unspoken-is problematic; it is uninformed about the total realities of the field, and it is rooted in cultural elitism. However, we argue that this problem can be addressed, in part, by acknowledging that some folklorists do study just the kinds of things that other folklorists may try to distance themselves from. We ask, "What is so horrible about being associated with these particular things, especially if folklorists can make a good case for studying them?" We examine Doug Enders's experience as a member of particularly stereotyped "folk" group: a not-so-good bluegrass band. We do this to demonstrate that while the term "folklore" can bring out stereotypes and biases, it also provides folklorists a chance to engage in a dialogue that explores and challenges these biases and assumptions. Indeed, we are concerned that if folklorists change the name of the field in part because of the biases they fear the name evokes, they are capitulating to those very biases.
“Bluegrass and ‘White Trash’: A Case Study Concerning the Name ‘Folklore’ and Class Bias.” Co-authored with Doug Enders. Journal of Folklore Research 37.1(2000): 23-52.