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Collaborative Research Fora: Health

John Bontrager is an Amish rug maker who makes rugs at the Center for Folk Traditions in Shipshewana, Indiana. Making rugs encourages him to remain socially active. Photo provided by Jon Kay.

Vernacular Systems of Healing and Repair

This working group proposes a series of colloquia, workshops, courses, and publications concerning the matters of public health, health and wellness, and the amelioration of trauma. As part of a larger departmental project that imagines and develops a “public facing humanities,” this working group seeks ways in which the disciplines of Folklore and Ethnomusicology may be mobilized for the public good.

Drawing from the expertise of department faculty this project seeks to uncover vernacular systems of healing among communities experiencing trauma, disparity, violence, and neglect. This working group proceeds from the notion that unorthodox thinking is essential to overcoming the most persistent challenges and health problems facing society today. Research done by ethnomusicologists and folklorists offers a unique way for understanding the ways in which communities have attempted to heal and repair trauma and violence. Potential topics of research will address the following social problems:

This working group anticipates coordinating a symposium on these issues, the presentation of research, and the publication of this research either as an edited volume or special issue of JFR. In addition, we anticipate the possibility of developing undergraduate coursework on the relationship between folklore and public health. These courses would offer a means of collaboration between the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and the School of Public Health.

Marian Sykes makes hooked memory rugs.   Roy Spight making drums.
Marian Sykes is a maker of hooked memory rugs. Each rug tells the story of her life; she uses the making and sharing of her rugs to recall and edit family memories. Photo provided by Jon Kay.   Roy Spight makes drums in his home in Indianapolis, Indiana. Through drumming and drum making, he has remained mentally and socially engaged in retirement. Photo provided by Jon Kay.