The Practice of FolkloreEssays toward a Theory of Tradition

The Practice of FolkloreEssays toward a Theory of Tradition

Simon J. Bronner

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9781496822628

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


This book proposes to answer the pressing philosophical as well as psychological question of why people repeat themselves. It redefines folklore as traditional knowledge that serves this need in human lives and develops a "practice theory" around this idea. Practice, more than other suggested keywords of performance or enactment in social theory, connects localized culture with the vernacular idea that "this is the way we do things around here." The term invites study of what people do repeatedly to understand what they have in "mind." Demonstrating the application of this theory in folkloristic studies, Bronner offers four provocative case studies of psychocultural meanings that arise from traditional "frames of action" and address issues of the day: labeling of boogiemen to express fear of sexual molestation, connecting "wild child" beliefs to school shootings, identifying the crisis of masculinity in adolescent expression. Turning his analysis to the analysts of tradition, Bronner uses practice theory to evaluate the agenda of folklorists in shaping perceptions of tradition-centered "folk societies" such as the Amish, unpacking the culturally based rationale of public folklore programming, interpreting the evolving idea of folk museums in a digital world, and assessing how the terms folklorists use and the things they do affect how people think about tradition. This is a book intended to think about what people do in the name of tradition, and why.