I am a folklorist and ethnologist whose teaching and research work bridges the fields of folklore, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, ethnohistory, and museum studies.
My studies concern, most centrally, the nature of customary arts, practices and beliefs and the role that these play in social life. In addition to the ethnography and ethnology of Eastern North America, I pursue projects exploring emerging issues (often quite contested) in the areas of intellectual property, cultural property and heritage policy. Lastly, most of my career has been spent working as a curator in museum contexts and I remain deeply engaged with research in, and teaching about, museums, especially museums of art and ethnography.
Among my current projects is a book on the role of community rituals in shaping historical consciousness among the native peoples of Eastern North America.
My research centers on ethnographic collaboration (since 1993) with the Euchee/Yuchi and other Woodland Indian communities living in eastern and central Oklahoma.
This background has been particularly valuable because a central concern of my work is understanding the regional dynamics of ceremonial visitation that both facilitate the formation of an overarching Woodland cultural and social world and the perpetuation of distinct tribal identities. My work at present focuses on this pattern in ethnographic terms, but my long-term goal is to work back ethnohistorically to form a clearer understanding of the same patterns of intertribal social interaction as they have unfolded in the past.
My method, one associated with folkloristics and linguistic anthropology, is to focus closely on genres of cultural performance, such as the visual arts, narrative, oratory, festival, dance and music.
My experience as a curator has also entailed many of the responsibilities typically associated with a public folklorist—collaboration with tradition bearers, exhibition development, and the planning of programs that bring local cultural traditions to wider publics.
Over the past decade, my work has increasingly focused on emergent conceptual and policy issues. Building on longstanding involvement in cultural property questions (such as repatriation), I have developed interests in, and pursued work on, intellectual and cultural property (and heritage) questions.
- material culture; cultural performance; ethnology; cultural history; museum anthropology