Field School tour of the Beckley Exhibition Mine

Today we traveled to Beckley to tour the exhibition mine. We rode a small train deep into the earth. The site included several coal camp structures: a camp house, bachelor shanty, one room school, church and the superintendent's house. The students have been reading about and interviewing coal mining families before and during the field …

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Field School 2018: West Virginia Coalfields

I've been looking forward to this day for over a year. We arrived to South Charleston to a lovely AirBnB late yesterday afternoon. Today we travel to Mingo County to interview mining families at the Matewan Union Hall.  The ten students who are with me: graduate students from Mason's Folklore Studies Program, Anthropology Program and …

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Good Leaders and Followers

This is a follow-up to my last post about the Future of Folkloristics conference. The conference participants talked about the skills of leadership and "followership." Many people don't think that they are, or can become leaders. They feel more comfortable as a follower. I don't have a problem with that, except the rules for good leaders …

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The Future of American Folkloristics #FOAF

About a year ago, a group of forward-thinking graduate students at Indiana University hatched a plan for a conference. They wanted to bring folklorists at all stages of their careers* together to discuss the future of the discipline. Shortly after, the planning for FOAF began. This week, one hundred plus folklorists converged on Bloomington. From …

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Real Innovation, Not Corporate Modeling

Some VA schools are recreating the idea of the university, not trying to fit it into the corporate model


If your institution has implemented RCM budgeting, you know that one of the main casualties of the model is interdisciplinary studies, especially across colleges. And given that most cutting-edge innovation is coming out of just those kinds of interdisciplinary study, the corporate management model is actually undermining one of the most significant ways in which university research might feed economic development.

Writing for the Roanoke Times, Robby Korth has reported on Virginia Tech’s significant commitment to developing not just interdisciplinary programs but interdisciplinary “areas” of study in which very innovative teaching, learning, research, and scholarship will be fostered. And it is hard to see how this approach will not benefit the more traditional disciplines within the university since most of them will contribute in some way to the work being done within new areas of study.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Korth’s article, describing the major elements of…

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In the Black: A Memoir of Coal Mining

I discovered Gary Bentley's serialized memoir, In the Black, through the podcast of Inside Appalachia. It's a deeply moving, often shocking memoir of his work in a deep coal mine in Kentucky. There are few real-life accounts that offer this type of insight into the daily lives of miners. We can only hope that Bentley …

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The Latest & Greatest in Ethnography: Evicted by Matthew Desmond

From today's Book World in The Washington Post:  Thank you, Matthew Desmond. Thank you for writing about destitution in America with astonishing specificity yet without voyeurism or judgment. Thank you for showing it is possible to compose spare, beautiful prose about a complicated policy problem. Thank you for giving flesh and life to our squabbles …

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