Born and raised in the East Bay, Alison O'Connor-Korb spent her undergraduate career in the forests of University of California Santa Cruz, earning a degree in Classical Studies and getting firsthand experience with narrative transmission at the campus' noncommercial radio station. Focusing on supernatural and fringe characters in epic poetry across multiple ancient traditions, she wrote on the topics of monstrous femininity in the Roman epigrammatic tradition and the unease between civilization and nature in Ovid's Metamorphoses for her comprehensive exams. A desire to explore the creeping terrors and magical snakes outside of Ancient Europe and a lifelong love of storytelling, mythology, and superstitions led her to Berkeley's department of Folklore. Alison is currently researching concepts of monstrosity in folkloric forms, in particular the way monstrous bodies appear, are defined, and are interacted with in their respective stories. She is also interested in bodily transformations, liminal and transgressive places and characters, and human-animal hybrids.
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.
Hector Beltran is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology and received his M.A. in Folklore in 2010. He connects his graduate work to his computer science background, having received a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from M.I.T. His M.A. work was based on a computer class he taught at an organization in Oakland designed for recent migrants who identify as Maya. His thesis analyzed the social life of migration narratives from La Frontera Sur and the ways students worked to deconstruct the institutionalized borders of "new" media as they positioned themselves and other social actors along the participation and production maps at the core of "new" modes of circulation. Re-focusing his ethnographic lens on new media and tech producers, his current dissertation work investigates the circulation of cultural, ethical, and technical practices of hacking and tech entrepreneurship between sites in Mexico and the San Francisco Bay area.
Larisa Shaterian has always been interested in how narratives make reality across boundaries of space, culture, and gender. During her time as an undergrad at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, she studied how photojournalistic images interacted with power in a US-Middle East circuit. At that same time she herself engaged in a 5 year documentary photography project with a Palestinian family in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. She is currently interested in how narratives among and about humanitarian aid workers working on chronic refugee problems in the Levant shape and reproduce ideas of need and generosity both in the countries in which they work and the countries where they are from. Larisa also takes an avid interested in the ways humans talk to animals in different languages.
Lashon Daley is an MA student in the department of Folklore at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a BA in English with a minor in journalism and psychology from the University of Miami, and an MFA in Writing with a minor in Dance studies from Sarah Lawrence College. Her academic interests includes researching storytelling as a performance art as well as critiquing the space in which storytelling occurs in the festival setting. She was a UC Berkeley Distinguished Fellow in 2012 and a 2014 Callaloo Fellow.
Lissett Bastidas grew up in Peru, where she first learned about folklore. There and then, she realized that behind this concept were celebrations, contradictions, and inequalities that refer to the old, rural, Andean, Indian, Afro, or "traditional" in opposition to everything the "modern" should be. She got her B.A. with a double major in International Development Studies and Middle Eastern and North African Studies from UCLA, where she further studied the dichotomy of modernity and traditionality at local and global levels and with interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives. Her research focuses on the effects of these dichotomies on health, health disparities, institutions, law and epistemology in state-funded community programs for mental health care in the Bay Area.
Ruth Goldstein is a PhD candidate in the joint Medical Anthropology anthropology program at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. She completed her Masters in Folklore in 2009. Her thesis, "An Ecology of the Self and Other WIld Thoughts," drew from ethnobotanical work in a medicinal plant garden in Costa Rica and ethnographic fieldwork at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. Through an analysis of Claude L¨¦vi-Strauss's contribution to UNESCO's idea of "unity in diversity" and his earlier work in Les Pens¨¦es Sauvages, Goldstein examined how this impacts ownership of traditional knowledge and genetic resources in the setting of the Costa Rican garden, where people see themselves in the plants. Current doctoral research examines the triangular traffic in women, plants, and gold along Latin American's Interoceanic Road in Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. Goldstein spends any second of her free time with horses, cleaning stalls, riding bareback, and revising her dissertation in the company of horses.
Sarah Montoro is a California native with a B.A. in Creative Writing and English Literature from Cal State University, Long Beach. An undergrad paper she wrote about the small group traditions of the Heaven's Gate cult, her time teaching ESL through play and storytelling in Brazil, and her life-long fascination with her own family lore fueled her interest in folklore, leading her to pursue an M.A. in Folklore at UC Berkeley. Today, Sarah's research interests include family folklore, internet culture, storytelling in public spaces, and the role of monstrous and supernatural figures in urban life. Her research project focuses on the occupational folklore of walking tour guides and the construction of collective memory and identity through narratives of the supernatural and strange in San Francisco.
Designated Emphasis Students
Adam J Carl has had a lifelong fascination for Norse mythology, and was frequently unsatisfied with the subject's treatment by coffee table books, He is now pursuing a PhD in the Scandinavian Department, after studying at The Ohio State University the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, During his coursework, Adam found an interest in philology (Indo-European and Finno-Ugric), variations and performances of texts in oral tradition, and gendered performances in Norse literature. His previous research at Ohio State has attempted to locate feminine agency in Old Norse myths and legends, modifying the prevailing theories of Carol Clover's work on the Icelandic Sagas. This interest led to his study of some archaeological material from Norse Greenland, Birka, and various Danish digs in order to understand the daily life of the culture producing folkloric texts. Interart theory has also played a role in his past research at the University of Copenhagen, as Norse textile production plays a significant role in the mythology and legends. Though he has spun, woven, and carded, he tries (sometimes successfully) to look to modern, not medieval, Scandinavian fashion.
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.
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.
Naomi Bragin's dissertation, Black Power of Hip Hop Dance: On Kinesthetic Politics, is the first major study of early hip-hop from Oakland to Watts, California, during the 1960s and 1970s. Presenting a new archive of vernacular styles foundational to hip-hop's subsequent rise in New York, she argues that a revolution in social dance literally moved black folks in struggles for power and liberation. Kinesthesia-the body's "sixth" sense of motion subordinate within Western epistemology-is essential to studying erotics of black radical tradition, sustained through ways of feeling- together in movement. (Kin)aesthetic politics describes the primacy of movement perception to the formation of black political community, and asks how do social dance practices work within queer and black communities imagining new forms of kinship? Attuned to (kin)aesthetic politics, hip-hop dance is a corp(oral) medium of paralinguistic storytelling that sustains ongoing protest against racial, gender and sexual oppression, impacting popular culture globally. Publications in May 2014 include "Techniques of Black Male Re/dress" in the Women & Performance special issue All Hail the Queenz: A Queer Feminist Recalibration of Hip Hop Scholarship, and "Shot and Captured," Winner of The Drama Review's 2013 Student Essay Contest. "From Oakland's Turf to Harlem's Shake" is forthcoming 2015 in the Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies, edited by Doug Rosenberg. Her next project is a multi-sited ethnography of transnational street dance culture, tracing circuits of migration through the Caribbean, North Africa and France. Her interests include dance and performance studies, queer of color critique, critical race theory, oral history, performance ethnography, and new media.
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.