Programs & Courses - A Letter to Prospective Students

Dear Visitors and Prospective Students:

Welcome to the virtual home of the Berkeley Folklore Program, a creative and truly international center for scholarship and academic training that focuses on the relationship between traditionality and modernity in contemporary research and social life, the historical emergence of traditional cultural forms, and the importance of perspectives on folklore in shaping political and social projects.

The Program was established in the early 1960s by William Bascom and Alan Dundes, and the M.A. Program in Folklore welcomed its first graduate students in 1965. For four decades, Professor Dundes and his colleagues provided hundreds of students each year with an inspiring undergraduate introduction to folkloristics, a rigorous foundation for graduate study at the M.A. level, and doctoral training in conjunction with Berkeley departments in the humanities or social sciences or the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program. Professor Dundes had a tremendous impact on the field through his voluminous books and articles as well as the vast ranks of his former students, who include many current leaders in the discipline. His untimely death in 2005 deprived us all of a colleague, friend, and mentor.

I had the privilege of becoming the director of the Program in August of 2005, assuming the Distinguished Chair that bears Alan Dundes' name. Berkeley has made it absolutely clear that it wishes to remain one of the leading centers in the world for research and teaching in this area. Thanks to commitments on the part of Berkeley faculty and students, the Department of Anthropology (which houses and supports the Program), and the Berkeley administration, folklore scholarship's future at Berkeley is bright.

One of the main features of the Program is its broad international focus. A major goal is to create dialogues between scholars and students based in a diversity of communities within the United States and Europe and colleagues in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, thereby helping to decolonize folkloristics and transcend its Eurocentric roots. Our visiting scholars have included Galit Hasan-Rokem from Israel, Sadhana Naithani of India, and Rahile Dawut of China as Visiting Faculty. The Program's pedagogical and research foci include colonialism and folklore, cosmopolitanism and vernacularism, globalization, neoliberalism, global regimes of traditional intellectual property, and the international division of cultural labor, as well as many of the subjects and genres that have formed mainstays of research in the field. 

Second, the Folklore Program works in close cooperation with Berkeley's outstanding faculties in the humanities, social sciences, and interdisciplinary and area/international studies programs and with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum. As a result, we are particularly strong in the following areas:

  • Critical Theories of Traditionalities and Modernities
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Medicine and the Body
  • Folk Art and Materiality
  • Performance Studies
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Race and Coloniality
  • Narrative and Discourse Analysis
  • Areal concentrations on Africa, Asia, Celtic, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East, Scandinavia, and Slavic/East European/Eurasian

Rather than simply reproducing disciplinary knowledge, we link critical, historically- and theoretically-based readings of foundational works in folkloristics and related disciplines to in-depth training in new scholarly perspectives. The Berkeley Folklore Program seeks to educate the scholars who will shape the future of the discipline, generating critical histories of cultural forms and creating new approaches for studying how the continual production of traditionalities shapes the politics of modernity.

The Berkeley Folklore Program offers the M.A. in Folklore. We encourage students to consider this degree as part of a program of study that will include a Ph.D. in a Berkeley department in the humanities and social sciences. Applicants may also opt for our unique Dual Admissions Program, which offers the possibility of pursuing the M.A. in Folklore and a Ph.D. program in the Humanities or Social Sciences simultaneously. We also offer a Designated Emphasis Program, open to students enrolled in Berkeley Ph.D. programs in the Humanities and Social Science, which offers a solid grounding in folkloristics and enables students to obtain Ph.D.'s in, for example, French Studies and Folklore. Those interested in applying should contact the Graduate Student Affairs Officer, Graduate Adviser, and/or Chair. We welcome students and postdoctoral scholars from all over the world. The Berkeley Folklore Archive in Kroeber Hall provides resources for scholarly research and a congenial meeting place for students and scholars, and the Program is currently planning to expand its mission and resources.

In short, the Berkeley Folklore Program is on the move, drawing on the university's splendid intellectual resources to present a range of options for graduate and postdoctoral training and a context in which theoretically-charged approaches can emerge. We welcome you to contact us, visit Berkeley, speak with faculty members and students, and become part of this dynamic process.

Sincerely,

Charles L. Briggs
Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor of Folklore
Professor of Anthropology
Chair, Berkeley Folklore Program

Programs & Courses