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Folklore is a difficult term to nail down. In the last century, the parameters of its study have expanded exponentially, challenging traditional notions of the composition of the folk group, the nature of folk production, and the scope of the media employed in folk expression. University of Pennsylvania scholar Dan Ben-Amos offers a compact definition that we could apply to the theme of our current issue. "Folklore," he writes, "is artistic communication in small groups."
Since Ben-Amos first presented his definition, online folk groups have supplemented smaller, more intimate groups through the arena of computer-based social media; yet, traditional communities persist and thrive, their members at once drawing upon the lore of the group and adding to that lore through individual or collaborative creation.
Weavers, knitters, and fabrics artists may learn their craft from more experienced practitioners; cooks, from family tradition bearers; vocalists, instrumentalists, and dancers through performative interaction with others in their discipline. All contribute to the dynamic exchange of techniques, products, and performances that defines the folk group.
Image courtesy Ellis