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Matthew Hale

Matthew Hale

PhD student 
Indiana University, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology

Graduated: 2010


Where do you currently work?

I'm currently a PhD student within the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, a senior co-convener for the Graduate Student Section of the American Folklore Society, a member of the SMART team of the Media Preservation Initiative at Indiana University, Bloomington, and am on the editorial board of New Directions in Folklore.


Tell me a bit about your career?

At the present moment, I'm in the process of conducting multimedia ethnographic fieldwork for my dissertation concerning steampunk costuming, adornment, and body art at Atlanta, Georgia, a project that fellow WKU graduate Suzanne Barber and I began in 2010 while attending WKU. The primary focus of this work will center on the notion of what science fiction authors Bruce Sterling and William Gibson have called atemporality or temporal cosmopolitanism. I will explore the relationship between the past, present, and future as ideologically constructed space-time objects or events, and how steampunks employ history as a source content to imagine, materialize, and embody/animate alternate and counterfactual histories as a means of social critique and transformation within the present.

While an undergraduate and later as graduate student at WKU, I was fortunate to win a number of awards including the Cam Collins Outstanding Undergraduate (2008) and Graduate (2010) Awards, Outstanding Graduate of Anthropology (2008), the Potter College of Arts and Letters Outstanding Graduate Student Award (2011). Most recently, I was the recipient of the Warren E. Roberts Prize for Best Student Paper in Folk Art (2011) awarded by the Folk Art section of the American Folklore Society for my ethnographic research on contemporary lutherie practices, the subject of my both WKU MA thesis and my forthcoming publication in Folklore Forum entitled "Shaping Theory, Bending Method, Tapping [New] Media" (2012).

While a student at WKU and since graduating from the program, I have presented at a number of academic conferences including single authored multimedia presentations at the Ohio State University and Indiana University Folklore and Ethnomusicology Student Conference (2010 and 2011), and co-authored presentations with Suzanne Barber at the American Folklore Society (2011) and the American Anthropological Association (2010 and 2011). Based upon our joint research in technology and posthumanism, Suzanne Barber and I are currently working on a co-authored article entitled "Enacting the Never-Was: Upcycling the Past, Present, and Future in Steampunk" for an edited volume on steampunk cultural productions.


How has folklore prepared you?

I took my first folklore class in the Spring of 2005, my second semester of college, from Barry Kaufkins at Glasgow, Kentucky. Over the next three years, I enrolled in 14 more folklore courses and 11 in cultural anthropology. In the Fall of 2007, I took Dr. Kristin Dowell's Visual Anthropology course, later taking its companion course, Ethnographic Video Production and in the Spring of 2008. These two courses piqued my interest in the aesthetics and technologies of ethnographic craftsmanship, in particular in the use of video and multimedia modalities in ethnographic representations. This interest lead me to apply to the graduate program at WKU, where I took 10 advanced seminar courses in folk studies, and sat in on numerous others, completed an internship, created several ethnographic short films and multimedia displays, and composed my Master's Thesis, "Human Things: Rethinking Guitars and Ethnography" (2010). In each of these courses, graduate and undergraduate, WKU shaped my perceptions of human expressiveness and what it means to be ethnographic and to make ethnographic things within the 21 century.

As a graduate assistant within the program, I was given several opportunities to teach undergraduate students in a tangible, live classroom setting, and online just two years later when I taught two online courses at WKU after graduating from the program. In each of these instances, I came to the realization that I not only loved doing ethnography, but that I also loved teaching it. I applied to, was accepted, and entered the Folklore Institute at Indiana University in 2011 where I currently reside. At WKU, I developed my own style and way of being ethnographic , and began what would come to be a primary area of interest for my current work, the history of ethnography, modernity, postmodernity, and its relation to atemporality and hypermodernity, "sensuous scholarship," embodiment, and "techniques of the body," ethnographic film history, theory, and production, and the philosophy of ethnography.

Matt and Suzanne

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 Last Modified 9/24/14