Western Folklore

Vol. 79 No. 1 – Winter, 2020

Ethnicity and Genres: Essays in Honor of Dan Ben-Amos

Special issue edited by Juwen Zhang


Anthony Bak Buccitelli and Juwen Zhang


The Concept of Ethnic Genre as a Paradigm Shift
Juwen Zhang

ABSTRACT: The development of folkloristics into a “normal” science at the turn of the 20th century determined its Eurocentric paradigms. The idea of “ethnic genre” proposed by Dan Ben Amos in the 1960s was a direct challenge to its methods of categorization, but also to the definition and analysis of folklore. This article argues that this represented a paradigm shift in folkloristics. It also suggests the related idea of folkloric identity as a new ideological direction. KEYWORDS: genre, ethnic genre, ethnic identity, folkloric identity, paradigm

“Two Little Tigers” in the Lives of One Family: History and Politics through Folksong
Beverly J. Butcher

ABSTRACT: In this paper, I explore the significance of the Chinese míngē or folksong commonly known as “Liǎnggè Lǎohǔ” or “Two Little Tigers,” which is sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques,” in the lives of the Chen family based on interviews conducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1989. In my analysis, I trace the history of the song in each family member‘s life in Beijing Municipality, Hubei and Hebei Provinces, and finally in Philadelphia. KEYWORDS: ethnic genre, folksong, China, history, Chinese America

Art, Folk, and Performance in the Emerging Discourse on Japanese Modernity
Hideyo Konagaya

ABSTRACT: Geijutsu, the Japanese word for art, has received little attention in Japanese folkloristics since the mid-twentieth century. Instead of geijutsu, Japanese scholars speak of geinō (performing arts), modifying it with minzoku (folklore or folk). By highlighting the distinction between geijutsu and geinō and exploring their discourse within the socio-historical and political context of Japanese modernity, this article reveals the process by which minzoku geinō has emerged as a folkloristic category. KEYWORDS: art, folk, performance, modernity, aesthetics, discourse, disciplinary historiography

The Discourse of Islamophobia
Fariha I. Khan

ABSTRACT: According to Dan Ben-Amos’ theorization, genre signifies culture-bounded systems and is informed by the “cultural affirmation of the communication rules …within the cultural context.” At a time when Islamophobia is manifest in discourse and in action, communities of Muslim and non-Muslims speak about and negotiate hate and discrimination in different ways. This work examines the conversations and the rhetoric around Islamophobia from the perspectives of various communities in Pennsylvania. KEYWORDS: Islamophobia, ethnic genre, culture, context, communication

Localizing the “ethnic”: Balut-Eating Contests and Identity Performance among Filipino Americans
Margaret Magat

ABSTRACT: A half-century ago, Dan Ben-Amos decried the incongruity between what he called localized “ethnic genres” and analytical categories constructed by scholars. He called attention to native cultural expressions in their context. I suggest that balut-eating contests cannot be categorized simply with the analytical category of a festival game or a competitive-eating contest. Instead, it should be seen as a localized genre which communicates Filipino Americans’ experiences and opposes the denigration of their cultural practices. KEYWORDS:Filipino, balut, eating contests, performance, identity

Letters to Dan Ben-Amos
Herminia Menez Coben, Chia-hui Lu, and Leah Lowthorp