Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico

Debra Lattanzi Shutika. Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. $65.00, hardcover. $27.95, paperback. $27.95, e-book.

 Fredericka Schmadel
Indiana University

Folklorist Debra Lattanzi Shutika’s Beyond the Borderlands might appear atypical, but the material remains relevant to folklorists. Folklife and material culture researchers and those interested in a sense of place or identity, a sense of belonging, will find food for thought in chapter 3, which describes the translocal, village-to-village identity of the migrants who moved from a prosperous Guanajuato village to a more prosperous village in Pennsylvania. Shutika goes into detail about the memorials they set up, in their village of origin, to themselves and their families by preserving for decades their pre-migration houses, called casas vacias (vacant houses) which in reality are full of their life stories and dreams. Continue reading “Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico”

Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America

Dennis Cutchins and Eric A. Eliason, Eds. Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009. Pp. xxi + 230, black and white photographs, index. $48.00 cloth.

 Danielle Quales
Indiana University

This book is a collection of essays from a wide variety of academic contributors who deal with the cultural, psychological, and physical ways in which contemporary North American people interact with, shape, and are impacted by their natural surroundings.  As the authors of the individual articles reveal, interactions between man and nature occur for reasons of both sustenance and sport.  Editors Cutchins and Eliason have chosen to include articles on such diverse topics as the development of a new species of coyote-hunting dog in South Dakota and the many important rituals and traditions associated with seasonal hunting camps throughout North America.  Another interesting story included in this volume is about the implementation of outdoors skills programs for at-risk women that equip them with basic survival and camping skills, while at the same time raising their own self-esteem in all realms of their everyday life.  The great variety of interesting topics addressed by a multitude of voices in this volume keeps the articles engaging, while at the same time providing specific information that falls under the broader scope of hunting, the outdoors, and humans’ roles in these areas.   Continue reading “Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America”

McMeaning in the Maw of the Masses: Analyzing Fast Food Mash-Ups

McMeaning in the Maw of the Masses: Analyzing Fast Food Mash-Ups

Meagan Winkelman
Ohio State University

This paper analyzes the foodways of teenagers in the digital age, specifically the construction of “fast food mash-ups.” These practices, unlike typically documented ethnographic foodways, do not involve cookery; rather they involve the reappropriation of readily available fast food items. The results are massive hybrid sandwiches, like the “McGangBang,” a McDonald’s McChicken sandwich inside of a double cheeseburger. Using interviews with past and present members of the folk group that engages in these practices, collected online and in person, I will explore the meaning of these reappropriations to the people who make and consume them. This paper focuses on the social and psychological factors that influence fast food mash-ups, including the rite of passage ritual of consumption in excess, the desire to deviate from cultural and institutional norms, and the struggle to create meaning in the mass-produced food and drink that dominate youth food culture, as well as the function of fast food mash-ups as legends, which are being acted on ostensively whenever the sandwiches are ordered, constructed or consumed. Continue reading “McMeaning in the Maw of the Masses: Analyzing Fast Food Mash-Ups”

Shaping Theory, Bending Method, Tapping [New] Media: Ethnographic Craftsmanship and Responsive Design

Shaping Theory, Bending Method, Tapping [New] Media:
Ethnographic Craftsmanship and Responsive Design

Matthew Hale
Indiana University

This article was awarded the Warren E. Roberts Prize for Best Student Paper in Folk Art (2011) by the Folk Arts Section of the American Folklore Society

This work is about objects and their makers, their relationship, and the negotiation between tradition and innovation in the creation of things. I explore the relationship between tradition, innovation, and technology as it pertains to the creation, perception, and interaction with acoustic steel string guitars and ethnographies. First, I focus on the works of two Nashville based guitar makers, Grant and Cory Batson. I investigate the ways in which the Batsons critically evaluate traditional construction techniques and design features as they create their instruments, looking at their theories of tone production, methods of construction, and their perceptions and uses of various media within their guitars. Second, I recruit the Batsons’ theories, methods, and revisions of tradition as a metaphor to discuss the traditional ways of constructing ethnographic representations. Through this work, I argue for the craftsmanship of more responsive ethnographic things which take into account not only theoretical, but also methodological and media eclecticism. Continue reading “Shaping Theory, Bending Method, Tapping [New] Media: Ethnographic Craftsmanship and Responsive Design”

Thomas Burton. Beech Mountain Man: The Memoirs of Ronda Lee Hicks.

Thomas Burton. Beech Mountain Man: The Memoirs of Ronda Lee Hicks. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009. $32.95 cloth.

Danielle E. Quales
Indiana University

In this book, Burton presents the life stories of western North Carolina native Ronda Lee Hicks on a wide variety of subjects, all of which are equally informative and engaging.  Hicks narrates stories about his days in the army and in prison, the importance of his home and family on Beech Mountain, and his many encounters with less than amicable characters.  Hicks is a member of the renowned Hicks-Harmon storytelling family, who are well known and studied for their centuries as keepers of Jack Tales and other traditional European folktale forms.  Ronda Lee Hicks, the member of the family presented in Burton’s book, however, tells stories about his own life and the people and places he knows best, rather than the traditional stories for which his extended family is known. Continue reading “Thomas Burton. Beech Mountain Man: The Memoirs of Ronda Lee Hicks.”

Music, Mediation, Sustainability: A Case Study on the Banjo

Music, Mediation, Sustainability: A Case Study on the Banjo

Jeff Todd Titon
Brown University

The banjo mediates structurally, culturally and historically, and experientially. Structurally, it resists taxonomic classification. Culturally and historically, it is a mediator among African and European American cultures. For that, I interpret evidence of the Black-white vernacular music exchanges in the 19th-century sketches and genre paintings of the American artist, William Sidney Mount. Experientially, the banjo mediates in the old-time string band session as the banjo player creates melody and rhythm interactively with the other musicians. For this, I offer a phenomenological account of what goes through a player’s mind/body when learning and performing a previously unfamiliar tune at normal tempo in a jam session. This constructive, creative, and integrative faculty is expressive culture’s principal act of resilience, and it may be its main contribution to sustaining life on planet Earth.

Continue reading “Music, Mediation, Sustainability: A Case Study on the Banjo”

Carolyn E. Ware. Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward.

Carolyn E. Ware.  Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules BackwardUrbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007.  Pp. xi+233, photographs, notes, index.  $65.00 cloth, $24.95 paper.

Nichole Tramel
Indiana University

In Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward Carolyn Ware furthers the field of folklore by focusing on an oft-ignored area of Mardi Gras studies: the contributions of women.  Mardi Gras has been regularly described as a male-centered festival promoting and highlighting masculine virtues and values.  Despite the professed prevalence of machismo in Mardi Gras runs, women have long quietly participated, supported, and perpetuated Mardi Gras traditions.  In recent decades, women have both maintained their established services and assumed customarily masculine roles in these courirs, preserving and redefining Mardi Gras in the process. Continue reading “Carolyn E. Ware. Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward.”