Previous Lectures

Kwesi Yankah

Ghana’s Presidents and the Rhetoric of Heritage

April 2024. 

Speaker's Biography:

Kwesi Yankah is a Ghanaian scholar in ethnography of communication, and a product of University of Ghana and Indiana University (USA). An academic, administrator, and author of several books, Yankah has been Vice-Chancellor of Central University, Ghana; and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Ghana. He was between 2017 and 2021 Ghana’s Minister of State for tertiary education. Yankah is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences; Fellow, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Honorary Fellow, American Folklore Society


The paper puts in a broad context the general exploitation of ethno-poetic resources by Ghana’s presidents to drive public policy and boost political charisma. Here icons of group identity derived from heritage are prioritized as quintessential, since they also celebrate a leader’s affinity with the masses. This has been optimally expressed in moments of stress where public sympathy is needed to drive policy or cope with a raging crisis. From the time of Ghana’s independence to date, Ghana’s leaders have actively deployed heritage to legitimize power and effectively convey policy positions. This was climaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the President set the pace depicting policy responses to the crisis through proverb icons in fabric wear. Ghana’s leader saw in the tragedy an opportunity to reinvent tradition, and wipe the nation’s tears through proverb lore.

The entire exercise is seen as a collective appeal to tradition to cope with contemporary crises, and as well demonstrate the healing power of heritage.

Mayako Murai

Multispecies Fairy-Tale Library Project: Designing a Public Library Exhibition in Rural Japan

February 2024. 

Speaker's Biography:

Mayako Murai is professor of English and comparative literature at Kanagawa University, Japan. She is the author of From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl: Contemporary Japanese Fairy-Tale Adaptations in Conversation with the West and co-editor of Re-Orienting the Fairy Tale: Contemporary Adaptations across Cultures, both published by Wayne State University Press. She curated the exhibitions Fur Story at Leeds Arts University and Storymakers in Contemporary Japanese Art at Japan Foundation Sydney Gallery. She is currently writing a book on fairy-tale animals in contemporary art and picturebook illustration.


“Multispecies Fairy-Tale Library,” which I have started recently, is a project whose aim is to rethink human beings’ relationship with other species through a reclassification of tale types. Instead of separating Animal Tales from the rest of the folktales as the ATU index does, this project proposes to create a new category Multispecies Tales in which more than two species, including humans, play important roles in the development of narrative and to classify them into six groups according to the kinds of relations between characters belonging to different species. This new classification is only tentative, and I intend to develop this idea by using different methods. One of them is to organise a series of Multispecies Fairy-Tale Library exhibitions and workshops to discuss multispecies fairy tales with people with various social and cultural backgrounds. In this talk, I will give an outline of my plan to hold a picturebook exhibition and a workshop at a public library in rural Japan in March 2024. It will be my first attempt at holding such an exhibition, and I would very much appreciate your comments and suggestions for this project!

Amy Shuman

Narrative and the Promise of Empathy

November 2023

Speaker's Biography:

Amy Shuman is Professor Emerita at the Ohio State University. She has received the American Folklore Lifetime Achievement Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and other honors. She is the author of two books on narrative, edited collections on political aslyum and disability, and more than 70 articles and book chapters.


One of the hopes, even expectations, of telling stories to others about our experiences is the possibility of empathy, the idea that someone who has not shared those stories will be a witness. Telling about painful, stigmatized or traumatic experiences is difficult by itself, and often our stories are fragmented and insufficient to truly account for what happened. Empathy, then, is triply encumbered, not only because the listener may be unfamiliar with the experiences, and not only because the subject is difficult, but also because the story may be partial, even unfinished. In this talk, I’ll describe some of the tools that folklorists bring to understanding narrative and empathy, including: identity and alignment, tellability, the genres and categories of available narratives, dialogism (multiple voices), and story ownership (including ethical considerations). I will briefly review some of my work on political asylum narratives and then turn to an in-depth discussion of the stories my aunt tells as a hidden child during the Holocaust. My aunt’s story carries a positive message. Empathy is about more than listening; it carries responsibilities. As painful as it is to tell her story, she does it (weekly) to remind people to stay informed and to speak up. 

Nemanja Radulović & Smiljana Đorđević Belić

"Discussing Disenchantment / Re-enchantment Argument: Folkloristics"

September 2023

Speaker's Biography:

Nemanja Radulović is professor of Folk Literature at the Department of Serbian Literature and South Slavic Literatures, Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade. His research is focused on fairy tales and belief narratives, urban folklore, history of folkloristics  and esotericism. He is a member of ESSWE board, of BNN board, a member of folklor committee of the International Committee of Slavists, and of the folk literature committee of Serbian Academy of Sciences. Edited volumes: Esotericism, Literature and Culture in Central and Eastern Europe (2018), Study of Eestern Esotericism in Central and Eastern Europe (2019; with Karolina Maria Hess).

Smiljana Đorđević Belić (b. 1978) is senior research associate at the Institute for Literature and Arts, Belgrade. Her research interests are focused on belief narratives, oral epics, theory and methodology in folkloristic research. Her publications include The Post-folk Epic Chronicle: A Genre on the Border and the Borders of the Genre (2016); The Figure of the Guslе Player: A Heroicized Biography and an Invisible Tradition (2017). She has been the co-editor (with Sonja Petrović) of Folkloristika, journal of the Association of Serbian Folklorists and the volume Disenchantment, Re-enchantment and Folklore Genres (with Nemanja Radulović). She is vice president of the Association of Serbian Folklorists, and a member of the Committee for Folkloristics of the International Committee of Slavists (ICS).


Max Weber’s disenchantment (Entzauberung) (1917) proved to be one of the most influential concepts in the 20th-century humanities and social sciences. Weber’s idea that the world has come to be viewed as a place from which magic has withdrawn (which is not identical with secularization) and in which the supernatural does not exert influence in everyday life helped in articulating new views not only in sociology but also in anthropology, ethnology, religious studies, political sciences, art history. Common to all of them is the notion of the world of modernity as the world devoid of the supernatural. Disenchantment has been criticized, to be sure, but such criticism is also part of the concept’s history in different fields. Among alternative views is the idea of re-enchantment which, contrary to Weber, claims not only that the world has never become fully disenchanted but, conversely, that it experiences strong revival of modern magical forms, not confined to some closed or alternative groups but precisely in popular culture and mass market. The polemics about disenchantment and re-enchantment has continued up to our days, more than a century after Weber’s lecture. Some important recent studies, recognized as defining contemporary fields of anthropology or religious studies, are tackling precisely the disenchantment–re-enchantment relation.

In spite of this far-reaching influence, disenchantment and re-enchantment have not exercised influence on folkloristics. That is striking since the topics folkloristics deals with overlap not only with the abovementioned fields but precisely with the questions addressed in Weberian and post-Weberian ideas. What happens with belief legends in the contemporary world, to what extent are beliefs retained and to what extent lost (or transformed)? Is contemporary legend an example of a rationalized legend where the supernatural disappears, or does this genre interact with the modern forms of supernatural belief, as expressed in New Age or popular occultism? What is the place of disenchantment anxiety at the very birth of the field in Romanticism? These are only some examples. Our aim is to see if the entire polemical dialogue between disenchantment (in various definitions) and re-enchantment can help us, as folklorists, to understand our materials, our methodological tools, and our own intellectual background better.

Maria Ines Palleiro

Argentinian Märchen: from Folktales to Belief Narratives

June 2023

Speaker's Biography:

Dr. Maria Ines Palleiro is Professor of Orality and Genetic Criticism at Buenos Aires University, a retired Senior Researcher in Folk Narrative at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina (CONICET), and vice-president for South America in the ISFNR Executive Committee.


Marvelous tales provide a gateway to a magic world that offers an alternative gaze at our daily life, which makes our existence more bearable. This wonderful world is rooted in a historic place and time, which, in the examples I will deal with, corresponds to the Argentinian context of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Real times and places are in tension with this marvelous world, without specific spatial nor temporal location. The tension between fiction and history is the distinctive feature of the narratives that mirror different aspects of Argentinian cultural identity. Beyond the fictional world of kings and princesses, each narrator opens a window to local lifestyles, telling tell us something about who Argentinian people are and how do they manage to overcome different obstacles in the day-to-day struggle.

In this presentation, I will provide some examples of Argentinian marvelous tales, collected during more than thirty years of field research.   The classification criterion is based on the concept of “narrative matrix”, conceived as a set of thematic, structural and rhetoric features, identified through the intertextual comparison of different narratives. Such criterion is aimed to highlight the flexible boundaries between different folklore genres, presented in international catalogues as a priori fixed patterns. This concept adds to the thematic narrative types described in the ATU universal Index, valid for folktales of all times and places, structural and stylistic issues. Such classification tends to underline the influence of social beliefs that erase boundaries between folk narrative genres.

Esi Sutherland-Addy, Sarah Dorgbadzi, Sela Adjei

Roots and Contemporary Continuities in Ghanaian Storytelling

April 2023

Speaker's Biography:

University of Ghana


Assoc. Prof. Esi Sutherland-Addy:

The Structure and Aesthetic of Selected Storytelling Performance Traditions in /n Ghana

Dr. Sarah Dorgbadzi:

Neo-Traditional Storytelling Performance for Multi-Ethnic Audiences

Dr. Sela Adjei:

“Dotokpo” and Soak the Ancestral Logic in Yom the Poet’s ALTER NATIVE EP

Dani Schrire

Wish you were here: Narrating the Holy Land in Postcards

February 2023

Speaker's Biography:

Dr. Dani Schrire a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem affiliated with two graduate programs: the Program for Folklore and Folk-Culture Studies (head) and the Program in Cultural Studies.


Postcards are emblematic objects of modernity and although they were invented in Europe in 1869 they spread rapidly across the globe . The “rediscovery” of the Holy Land in the West parallels the emergence of the postcard and various publishers produced full sets of postcards that were distributed also among people who never visited the sacred places. Based on research carried out in the David Pearlman Holy Land postcard collection of ca. 200,000 cards (donated in 2019 to the Folklore Research Center at the Hebrew University), I deliberately focus my talk on postcards from the 1960s and beyond when postcards lost their urgency and became mundane objects with writing conventions and postal practices that were already taken for granted. Narrating the Holy Land in this modern short folk-genre negotiates Biblical myths, political turmoils and everyday life, often in surprising and peculiar manners 

Cristina Bacchilega

Learning and Unlearning Folklore: Questions of Recognition, Transcoding, Genre, and Justice Revisited

November 2022

Speaker's Biography:

Cristina Bacchilega coedits Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies and is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa where she taught fairy tales and their adaptations, folklore and literature, and cultural studies. She is the author of Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies (1997), Legendary Hawai‘i and the Politics of Place: Tradition, Translation, and Tourism (2007), and Fairy Tales Transformed? 21st-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder (2013). And the coeditor of two recent collections, The Penguin Book of Mermaids with Marie Alohalani Brown (2019) and Inviting Interruptions: Wonder Tales in the 21st Century with Jennifer Orme (2021). Her current projects are collaborations that continue to pursue situated understandings of folklore and the fantastic.


My trajectory as a folklorist and fairy-tale scholar has been shaped by the experience of being a woman and settler of color in Hawaiʻi for close to forty years, a settler who seeks to be an active ally for Hawaiian sovereignty and social justice. Learning from Hawaiian moʻolelo and Hawaiian scholars has played a role in this trajectory solidifying my recognition of multiple traditions of wonder and why that matters. While raising questions of translation or transcoding, genre, disciplinary boundaries, and justice, this talk explores the relationship between Indigenous wonderworks and the fairy tale as one of several wonder genres.

Asta Skujytė-Razmienė, Lithuania

"Folklore in the Digital Realm: The Case of “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt”"

September 2022

Speaker's Biography:

Asta Skujytė-Razmienė is a Lithuanian folklorist. In 2014 she started working at The Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, in the Department of Folklore Archives. In 2019 she defended her PhD thesis “Conception of Contagious and Infectious Diseases in Lithuanian Folklore from the 19th to the First Half of the 20th Century”. Currently she is working as the head of the Department of Folklore Archives and preparing her monograph on the perception of diseases and illnesses in Lithuanian folklore.


Choosing folklore material as a source of inspiration for computer games is quite an old practice. Creators decide either to closely follow and recreate various legends and myths in the virtual world or just leave some hints at the material used. In my lecture I will concentrate on “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” from “The Witcher” (2007-2015) game series, created by a Polish video game company “CD Projekt Red”. As the third instalment is often described as “Folkloric RPG” by the fans and the critics alike, my goal is to take a closer look at the game, while attempting to answer the question, what makes this particular game to feel “authentically folkloric”? So, by focusing on “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”, I will argue that the creative team of “CD Projekt Red” might found a quite unexpected way to (re)construct and represent the possible mythological worldview of the times past in the virtual surroundings.

Ercilia Moreno Chá, Argentina

"The payada: an improvised oral poetic duel in Latin American contexts"

June 2022

Speaker's Biography:

ERCILIA MORENO CHÁ. Argentine ethnomusicologist. She was a researcher at the Universidad de Chile (University of Chile) and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano
(National Institute of Anthropology and Latin American Thought ) of Argentina. She served as Director of the Argentine Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega” (National Institute of Musicology “Carlos Vega”) and she collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution and the UNESCO, as advisor for Latin American traditions. Author of books and articles dealing with Latin American improvised oral poetry (payada) , being her most recent book “Aquí me pongo a cantar…” El arte payadoresco de Argentina y Uruguay. (2016) Here I come to sing. The art of the payada (oral poetic duel) in Argentina and Uruguay. 

Aquí me pongo a cantar…” – PDF book

El arte payadoresco
de Argentina y Uruguay

Folkloristika 6-2-2021


The improvised poetic duel is an ancient world tradition that is still present today in Latin America where it takes various forms. One of these forms is the “Payada”, which is performed by two minstrels (payadores) singing and playing guitar. It has become a ritual performance with a special structure and inherent symbolism. Both of these aspects are drawn on in both the private context and during shows, festivities and Cultural Performances (Singer 1972).

The Payada phenomenon is performed with firm respect for traditional gender conventions. Its main objective is to compete by means of drawing on a variety of resources and types of poetic license, in order to prove which performer has the best skills in the art of poetic improvisation within the musical genres of each region.  Expression varies is accordance with the audience and the context in which the performance takes place. Generally, it involves not only poetic art but also rhetorical and argumentative skill. The Payada has a three-part structure: the beginning iin which the payador introduces himself and/or greets the audience; the confrontation of ideas itself, and then finally a farewell. In performative terms, the art of Payada echoes the various phases of perfomance described by Richard Schechner (1994) in his studies of theatrical performances from the East and West: training, workshops, rehearsals, warm-ups, performance, relaxation and consequences. Improvised duels of this kind involving contests by two or more poets are a widely accepted global phenomenon. Payada as a particular kind of musical poetic confrontation is nonetheless an important part of an Iberoamerican tradition and involves a very unique genre of discourse. Case studies of the art from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay will be presented.

Sadhana Naithani, India

"Wildly Ours 4.0: Colonial Narratives of Non-Human Animals"

April 2022

Speaker's Biography:

Sadhana Naithani is professor at Centre of German Studies and Coordinator of Folklore Unit, SLL&CS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is the current president of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research and Honorary Fellow of the American Folklore Society. Her research interests span European and Indian, folklore and folkloristics. She has written on the disciplinary history of folkloristics in the contexts of British colonialism, on German folklore theory after WWII and on folkloristics in the Baltic countries under Soviet rule. Currently she is documenting narratives of time in German villages and researching folklore about wild life in colonial India.


Non-human animals have been conceptualized in human mind through narratives. Arguably, the oldest genre of folk narrative – the fable – resolved conundrums of human life and society through tales of non-human animals. Its impact was such that the fictional images of certain animals determined their real identity, for better or worse. Human beings construct their world narratively, but the narratives grow, change, renew and experience the displacement of old and emplacement of new narratives.

Colonial history is one such period of large-scale narrative change. In the postcolonial discourse on colonialism the focus has remained on human-human conflict/relationship for a long time, yet research on the exploitation of the wild life in colonies has been gaining ground.

The focus of this paper will be on the narratives about wild life generated and circulated in colonial contexts that determined the fate of several species who lived in the wild.