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Caitlin Barbera

MA | Folklore

Caitlin Barbera is a proud Coloradan and got her B.A. in History at Colorado College. While there, she became interested in the medieval history of East Central and Northern Europe, writing her undergraduate thesis on the interplay between paganism, Christianity, conversion and colonization in Lithuania in the Middle Ages. Folklore has been an important part of her life since childhood, when she became an avid reader of mythology, especially Norse mythology. A love of Irish music and a cappella singing has also given her an interest in folk songs and folk music. Her research interests include the conceptions of societal and otherworldly spaces in Old Norse literature. She is currently researching the locations and movements of magic and magic-users in Old Norse literature, especially in relation to gender roles. She has also done research on the interaction between traditionality and individual spirituality in Norse neo-pagan communities in the Bay Area.


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Héctor Beltran

PhD Candidate | UC Berkeley | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Héctor Beltrán is a PhD Candidate in Social/Cultural Anthropology and received his M.A. in Folklore in 2010 at the UC Berkeley. He connects his graduate work to his computer science background, having received a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from M.I.T. For his M.A. thesis, Héctor conducted ethnographic fieldwork with a community organization in Oakland where he taught a basic computing class to migrants who identify as indigenous Maya, mostly from Central America. He focused on the negotiations migrants make when they use digital or “new” media. As representations of the “hard-working migrant” circulate in popular media and subtly incorporate La Frontera Sur (the border between Mexico and Central America), there are high stakes for migrants who circulate their own representations and enter the politics of labor and Latinidad. Thus, Héctor’s work highlighted the ways in which migrants who dwell in complex transnational worlds re-produce (and attempt to re-arrange) a hierarchical migrant Latinx indexical order vis-a-vis the political economy of migration and labor, circulating imaginaries of violence and criminality, and notions of “the state.” A central argument in his thesis is that the multiple experiences of racialization that research participants encountered as they crossed multiple borders provided them with the critical toolkit to deconstruct the institutionalized borders of new media; they use humor and irony to position themselves and other social actors along the participation and production maps at the core of new infrastructures of circulation.

Re-focusing his ethnographic lens on producers of these new technologies, Héctor’s Ph.D. research investigates emerging forms of hacking and tech entrepreneurship by moving between key physical sites in Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area. This project aims to unpack the specific ways people construct models for technology-driven capitalism as they project their livelihoods into the future. At one level, Héctor’s dissertation makes a comparative analysis of how communities positioned on separate sides of the U.S./Mexico border make small re-inventions to established expert models that promote practices of hacking and entrepreneurship. On another level, he focuses on the ways these two tech communities coalesce by participating in events aimed at empowering a Latina/o collective. Thus, this dissertation highlights the striking ways “hacker-entrepreneurs” navigate seemingly contradictory domains as they contest (and construct) new forms of racialization, racism, and capitalism across the complex techno-borderlands. 


Regina Bendix

Professor | Georg-August-Universität | Cultural Anthropology

Regina Bendix is currently a Professor at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology at the Georg-August University in Göttingen. Here are a few of her own words about her time in Berkeley and since: "I came to Berkeley in February 1980, about to get married, and figuring out how to continue the study of Volkskunde begun in Zürich, Switzerland, at UC Berkeley. My father-in-law suggested I go see John Gumperz (I did) and Paul Rabinow (I did that too), and then I ventured to see Alan Dundes (waited in line with many others, then went in to see "the man"). He did not know what to make of the name Arnold Niederer, with whom I had studied Volkskunde for three semesters. But when I said I had also studied with Max Lüthi, his face lit up and I somehow seemed to have acquired a sign of distinction for having actually breathed the same air as Lüthi (whose seminars had been, for a freshman, perhaps not quite as scintillating as I should have experienced them, once I grasped the international renown Lüthi enjoyed). Studying in Berkeley was a mind-opening, thrilling experience coming out of a quite different educational and university system in Switzerland—there was joy, excitement, humor, and most of all encouragement to just go where my mind was taking me. Studying with Alan Dundes set me on course to become a folklorist (though I have deeply positive memories also of Laura Nader's "Introduction to Cultural Anthropology," and bewildered memories of Tim White's "Introduction to Physical Anthropology," which I took shortly after Lucy was discovered). I took classes with Bonnie Wade, John Lindow, a great course on the Western with an English professor whose name I cannot remember, and classes with the fabulous visiting scholars Dundes brought every year: Alessandro Falassi, Venetia Newell, and Bengt af Klintberg. 

Though an undergraduate, I was granted access to the two graduate seminars in folklore (as were numerous others, some of whom later would be graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, where I eventually taught). It was an atmosphere that motivated one to study hard and with pleasure—and in a time without digitized library catalogues. The smell of the card catalogue is deeply remembered! As is the pleasure of looking through journals and managing to find another couple promising references for the big bibliographic project for the 250A course. In 1982, I was accepted at IU's graduate program where studies were different, and approaches to folklore more diverse. But what I had been taught at Berkeley remained foundational for much of what I have tried to do and contribute to since. Berkeley was my first station of five during twenty-one years of living in the United States, and I have fond memories of returning to teach a semester (as I was invited to do by Alan Dundes in 1989), returning for a conference, or giving a talk at the invitation of Charles Briggs in more recent years, being in Kroeber Hall, frequenting the coffee shop next door (where I had my first latte—a truly great memory), and enjoying the scent of eucalyptus and the view of the Bay from the hills behind campus. It was and remains one of my favorite places to work and be."


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Naomi Bragin

Assistant Professor | University of Washington - Bothell | interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Naomi Bragin is a dancer and Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington-Bothell, where she teaches courses in hip hop dance, performance research, and Black performance theory. Her article "Shot and Captured," on policing, viral videos and Oakland Turf dance, won the 2015 ASTR Gerald Kahan Scholar's Prize and CORD Outstanding Dance Publication. She is the former founding artistic director of DREAM, an Oakland, California-based Streetdance company nominated for the Bay Area's Isadora Duncan Best Choreography Award. Her book project Black Power of Hip Hop Dance: On Kinethic Politics questions the ethics of studying Black movement between stage, street, studio, cyberspace and the underground. She writes, teaches and speaks about hip hop and club dances, popular culture and Black critical theory. 


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Lashon Daley

PhD Candidate | UC Berkeley | Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies

Lashon Daley is a PhD scholar in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on the performances of Black cultural expression in the U.S. She is a 2014 Callaloo Poetry Fellow and a 2015 UC Berkeley Chancellor Fellow. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College (2008) and an MA in Folklore (2015) from UC Berkeley. Her children's book, Mr. Okra Sells Fresh Fruits and Vegetables was recently published. Lashon is also the creator of Stories&Slams, a podcast that focuses on folktales and every day stories.


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Elizabeth Gilbert

MA | Folklore

Elizabeth Gilbert hails from the Lone Star State, having received her B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Communication Management from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. During that time she spent a semester abroad where she conducted an independent study on the contemporary storytelling scene in Ireland. It was here she discovered an interest in folklore, mythology, and the ways in which culture can influence community relationships. This interest has led her to Berkeley to pursue an M.A. in Folklore and back to Ireland in order to explore the ways in which folklore is used politically and otherwise.


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Cammeron Girvin

PhD Candidate | Slavic Languages and Literatures

Cammeron Girvin is a PhD candidate in Slavic Languages & Literatures with a Designated Emphasis in Folklore. His research centers around the intersection of South Slavic linguistics and folklore studies; he is particularly interested in how speakers of Bulgarian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian use linguistic forms to construct and display local and national identities. Cammeron's dissertation ties together his background in synchronic and diachronic Slavic linguistics with contemporary folklore theory to explore how elements of "folkloric" language-both small-scale linguistic features and larger poetic structures-were employed in the propaganda of socialist Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to create a new canon of national "folk" texts


Ruth Goldstein

College fellow | Harvard University | Folklore and Mythology

Ruth Goldstein is a college fellow at Harvard University in the Folklore and Mythology program, and is an affiliate in Anthropology. She received her Masters in Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley in 2009 and her PhD from the joint medical anthropology program at the Universities of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco in 2015. Her scholarly interests stem from over ten years of examining human rights and environmental issues. Her Master research examined ethnobotanical practices in Costa Rica related to pharmaceutical development and biopiracy. Her doctoral research analyzed the socio-environmental consequences of transnational infrastructure projects and climate change along Latin America’s recently constructed Interoceanic Road, with a particular focus on sex-trafficking, intersections of race, women’s health and human rights in Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. Her book, developed from her doctoral research: "The Traffic in Women, Plants, and Gold: Along the Interoceanic Road in Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia" will be published by the University of California Press Series: Nature, Science, Politics. Goldstein's newest research project traces how mercury carries a racialized valence defining migrant labor populations, often indigenous, as socially, mentally, and physically contaminated in California crop-fields and Amazonian gold mines.


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Valdimar Tr. Hafstein

Professor | University of Iceland | Folklore

Valdimar Tr. Hafstein is a Professor of Folklore and Ethnology at the University of Iceland. He received his MA in folklore in 1999 and his Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied with Alan Dundes and John Lindow. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, the Meertens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam, and the Georg-August Universität in Göttingen, as well as a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at New York University. 

Valdimar was the president of SIEF (International Society for Ethnology and Folklore) from 2013-2017 and he chaired the Icelandic Commission for UNESCO from 2011-2012. He serves on the editorial boards for Ethnologia Europaea, the Journal of American Folklore and Cultural Analysis. He has published in English and Icelandic on topics ranging from cultural heritage to copyright, from UNESCO to contemporary and medieval legends, and from traditional wrestling to CCTV surveillance. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, and Danish. His latest research project, on swimming pool culture, has been covered in media worldwide, including in "Vital Signs" on CNN, in newspapers from the New York Times to the Haaretz, and from a science show on Sweden's Public Service Radio to afternoon traffic talk radio on La FM in Bogotá. For a list of publications, please click here.


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Ross Jackson

Dermatologist | Oakland, CA

Ross Jackson received his MA in Folklore in May 2013. Prior to entering the Folklore program, Ross received an MD degree from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and completed a Residency in Dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. Ross practiced Dermatology for 30 years. It was in this clinical setting that his curiosity about tattoos began. For his thesis, entitled The Tattooed Body: Embodied Narratives, Ross undertook a project where he interviewed subjects at tattoo parlors about what meaning their tattoos had for them. His research shows that tattoos may be considered a form of storytelling, where the individual may project statements of identity, commemorate important life events or offer declarations of belief.


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Sarah Levin

PhD Candidate | Jewish Studies

Sarah Frances Levin is a PhD candidate in Jewish Studies, with a Designated Emphasis in Folklore. Sarah's dissertation, "Narrative Remembrance: Close Encounters between Muslims and Jews in Morocco's Atlas Mountains," investigates mid-20th-century Jewish-Muslim relations in Morocco as remembered through oral traditions by individuals of both religions living today in Morocco or Israel. Because folklore often serves to express intergroup tensions, it offers a unique frame-work for addressing issues of boundaries and difference, while simul-taneously elucidating the shared cultural experiences of Jews and Muslims. The analysis of the narratives reveals a complex and diverse intercommunal life in which maintaining religious boundaries involved constant negotiation of closeness and separation, and created an intricate-and sometimes tense-dance between affinity and differentiation.


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Samuel Louis Puliafico

MA | Folklore

Samuel Puliafico is a Southern California native who earned his undergraduate degree from UC Irvine in 2014. While at UC Irvine his research focused on spectacle and performance in American state fairs, festivals, and carnival. After earning his degree in Cultural Anthropology, he spent a year living and working in Ireland. Samuel is currently researching children’s folklore, and he is specifically interested in the aesthetic and design elements of children’s play objects and how they relate to the concept of play studies. Additionally, he is interested in culture production through children’s media and how these ideas can relate.


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Tok Thompson

Associate Professor | University of Southern California | Anthropology and Communications

Tok Thompson was born and raised in rural Alaska. At the age of 17, he began attending Harvard College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. In 1999 he received a Master’s degree in Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley, and three years later received a PhD in Anthropology from the same institution, all the while studying under the late great folklorist Alan Dundes. After receiving his PhD, Tok engaged in a two-year postdoctoral position with the Centre for Irish-Scottish Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, where he helped launch a new M.Phil. in Translation Studies. He also researched Irish language traditions in County Fermanagh on behalf of the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and the District Council of Fermanagh. In the Fall of 2006, Tok came to USC, where he has been teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in folklore and related topics. He is now an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Communications. Additionally, he has taught folklore as a visiting professor at universities in Northern Ireland, Iceland, and Ethiopia.  While still in graduate school, he co-founded  the journal Cultural Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Folklore and Popular Culture, which he co-edited for 15 years. From 2013-2017 he was the editor for Western Folklore. He is currently working on a textbook for Oxford University Press on World Mythology (with Gregory Schrempp), and a casebook entitled Posthuman Folklore.  Tok has spent each summer commercial fishing in Cook Inlet, Alaska, since he was eleven years old. He currently captains The Dancing Sky. In his spare time he is a singer/songwriter/musician of some renown, having toured and recorded as a solo act and with various rock bands for decades, with some of his songs receiving international airplay.


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Elaine Yau

PhD Candidate | History of Art

Elaine Y. Yau is completing her dissertation in History of Art, with a Designated Emphasis in Folklore. Entitled "Acts of Conversion: Sister Gertrude Morgan and the Sensation of 'Black Folk Art', 1963-1980, it uses the career of this African American preacher and painter to argue for the central role of religion in establishing the institutional category of "black folk art" in relationship to 'outsider' and 'self-taught' art. Other research interests include theories of the vernacular, race and representation, and historiography of folk art in the United States. She also serves as an editor at Cultural Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal on the study of folklore and expressive culture. Elaine has a B.A. in Art History from Stanford University, and will probably regret the day that she has to leave the Bay Area.