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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Mary Hufford Student Workshop

Apr 11, 2017, 12:45pm - 2:30pm

The OSU Folklore Student Association is delighted to welcome the celebrated folklorist and environmental activist Mary Hufford to OSU.

MARY HUFFORD STUDENT WORKSHOP - "Common Sensibility: Fieldwork as Participatory Worldmaking”

Denney Hall 311, Tuesday April 11th, 12.45pm-2.30pm

Registration is now open for a student workshop with Dr. Hufford, entitled "Common Sensibility: Fieldwork as Participatory Worldmaking" To register for the student workshop, please email Sarah Craycraft at with your name, .#, and department. Space is limited, and registrants will be accepted on a first-come basis. Registration requests that exceed the workshop cap will be placed on a wait list and notified as cancellations occur and space opens up.

Workshop description:

The kinds of social communication, around which folklorists have built a field, may implicate us in an ethnographic practice that goes beyond participant observation. Often embedded in the genres of performance that we engage are instructions for how to participate, and what to make of an extraordinary event nestled in the ordinary. When our topic of investigation is place, or what Arjun Appadurai called “the production of locality,” we may find ourselves conscripted into the making of local worlds. What are the implications? How do we know when we are actually assisting in the conjuring of locality from within, or evaluating and orienting from without? How do we get permission to go inside? The production of locality – in settings both urban and rural – is complicated by the complicity of more-than-human collaborators, biological and geological “others” in collective identities. How can we attend to, be attuned to, sensibilities of land-based communities? How is sensibility, rooted in perceptual activity, collectively deposited and replenished through conversational genres? How might our appropriation into conversational commons implicate us in the sensibilities of land-based customs of commoning? How might fieldworkers respond when presented with contending imaginaries anchored in the same species and spaces?

To prepare for this workshop, please read: “Deep Commoning: Public Folklore and Environmental Policy on a Resource Frontier” (contact Sarah Craycraft at for a copy). As you read, jot down any questions that arise for you, particularly in relation to your own fieldwork in progress. Be prepared to talk about your research, and to share your questions. Please bring to the workshop a transcription from your fieldwork containing strips of conversation, including narratives and/or other speech genres, that you would like to workshop. You are encouraged, but not required, to bring along a photograph or two, and/or a material object or two that you might like to query during the workshop.


MARY HUFFORD PUBLIC LECTURE - “The Witness Trees’ Revolt: Folklore’s Invitation to Narrative Ecology”

Denney Hall 311, Tuesday April 11th, 4.30pm-6.00pm

A distinction between “cultural” and “natural” resources, long cherished in fields engaged with heritage, is on shaky ground. Folklore is not alone in scrambling for footing in a shifting terrain of hybridizing fields and subjects: “vibrant materiality,” “multi-species ethnography,” “social ecology,” and “environmental humanities,” to name a few. I argue that folklore has a particular contribution to make to these reconfigurations, through an approach that I call narrative ecology: the transdisciplinary, multi-sectoral study, critique, and stewardship of places as narrative climax systems. In a narrative climax system, conversational genres are germinal in establishing and renewing membership in communities of land and people. Informed by theories, methods, and public policies incubated and tested in the trenches of public folklore in the last quarter of the 20th century, narrative ecology engages genres of communication as matrices for world-making within and across sectors and species. Emulating and reproducing perceptual dialogues with botanical and geological others, the speech genres that are folklore’s stock in trade engage our collective susceptibility to what Anna Tsing calls the “world-building proclivities” of the more-than-human. I ask, how do trees, rocks, water, soil, birds, salamanders, fish and coves perform as local subjects in the forest commons of southern West Virginia? At the nexus of creative nature and collaborative speaking, conversational genres are the enabling Bakhtinian heroes.

The workshop and lecture are part of a series of events hosted by the OSU Folklore Student Association. For more information about Dr. Hufford's visit - which includes a potluck dinner in her honour on the evening on April 10th, to which all interested parties are invited - please visit