Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology News
WKU Folk Studies Welcomes Back Former Faculty Member and American Folklore Society President
- Cori Cox
- Tuesday, February 21st, 2023
WKU has the pleasure of hosting Dr. Marilyn White this Thursday, February 23rd, as part of the Folk Studies 50th anniversary speaker series. Dr. White is the current president of the American Folklore Society (AFS), a retired professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies at Kean University, and a former WKU professor. Her presentation will cover her personal and academic folklore journey, the value of academic programs, and knowledge of people from a small Caribbean Island where she has conducted extensive fieldwork. This lecture will take place at 5:30 in the Western Room of the Kentucky Museum on campus.
On Thursday, Dr. White will be discussing her impressive and varied career in and out of academia. After earning her Ph.D. in Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. White taught in the Folk Studies program at WKU until 1985. Dr. White notes that because of WKU’s focus on public folklore, “those who go through the program are well-prepared to be leaders in the folklore public sector—and the program’s alums have borne this out." The next step of her journey took her to Kean University in New Jersey where she taught until 2011. In addition to the AFS, she has served on the boards of the New Jersey Folklore Society, the Middle Atlantic Folklife Association, and City Lore. Dr. White looks back on her days at WKU as “an opportunity to be with folklore colleagues all of the time and not just for a week at the annual AFS meeting.”
Dr. White will also be discussing the importance of academic programs. She wants her audience to understand “that what might be perceived to be esoteric (Folk Studies) or identity-specific (African American Studies, Asian Studies, Native American Studies, Latinx Studies) programs provide folks with invaluable knowledge and can help teach those who study the subject matter the means to help provide a platform to elevate rarely heard voices.”
There has been an excited buzz within the Folk Studies program regarding Dr. White’s visit. Katie Bennett, first year Folk Studies MA student, says “I’m excited for Dr. White’s visit for multiple reasons. She’s the president of AFS, so it’s awesome to have such a leading figure in our professional organization come visit us. I’m also interested in learning about her journey through her career, especially about her work in the Caribbean.” Several folklorists are traveling from out of state to attend this event alongside the students. Previous lectures within this series have pulled in audiences from the university and community alike; the series so far has included alumnus Dr. David Puglia’s lecture on his recent book North American Monsters: A Contemporary Legend Casebook (2022) and a talk on Kentucky music by Dr. Erika Brady, WKU Folk Studies Professor Emeritus and co-host of Barren River Breakdown on WKYU Public Radio . The final speaker in the series will be Dr. Peggy Bulger, former director of the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress and WKU Folk Studies alumnus, on March 23.
Current Folk Studies students posed a question to Dr. White in the week leading up to her lecture: what advice do you have for up-and-coming folklorists entering the field? Dr. White first encourages comradery with your peers and a good relationship with your professors if you are a student. “Get to know your fellow students and professors on a personal level, as they might be able to set you on your path or be able to introduce you to others who can help on your journey—and you might be able to do the same for them.” However, she does also give a warning about setting healthy boundaries: “Understand, especially if you’re BIPOC, that you might be asked or you might feel the need to be involved in outreach to multiple committees and communities. While this is necessary and important work, be careful about overextending yourself.”
Be sure to attend Dr. White’s talk on Thursday February 23rd at 5:30 in the Kentucky Museum. Free and open to the public.
For more information contact Ann K. Ferrell, Folk Studies Director, (270) 745-5896, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.