FOLK ARTS & CULTURE
Occupational Folklore refers to the shared knowledge held by workers within a specific occupational group, as expressed through narrative arts, shared techniques and information, and through shared technology and hand-made objects. Historically, folklorists such as John and Alan Lomax, and Archie Green collected the occupational lore of specific male-dominated professions such as lumbermen, fishermen, miners, and cowboys. More recently studies have been conducted with firefighters (McCarl); trial
lawyers; bar-tenders (Bell); subway workers (Gargulski); and masons (van
Buren). The Archie Green Fellows Program of the Library of Congress
honors the legacy of folklorist Archie Green through the Library of
Congress’s Folklife Center’s support of the collecting of occupational folklore. Since 2009, collecting projects have been supported with such disparate occupational groups as dairy farmers; beauticians; Boeing Plant
workers; dock-workers and longshoremen; Erie Canal workers; taxi drivers;
circus workers; and Thoroughbred Racetrack stablehands. Of interest to
the folklorist collecting occupational folklore are shared narrative
expressions (storytelling, jokes, proverbs); shared beliefs; tools and
specialized clothing; and shared knowledge of occupational skills and
Nancy Groce, in her article, “Local Culture in the Global City: The Folklife of New York,” takes note of the diversity of trades and professionals among New Yorkers, and writes that, ”Even in a city as large as New York, workers from each occupational community are bound together by folklore—shared customs, stories, traditions specific to their jobs. In her article, Nancy discusses the occupational folklore of Wall Street traders, the theater community, and the garment trades within the fashion industry.” [Voices, 30(1–2), 2004].
Documenting these New York City culture bearers in their various industries is described by Barbara Cohen-Stratyner in her report, “Voices of Others: Personal Narratives in the Folklife Festival,” in Voices, 33(1–2), 2007.
Ellen McHale describes the ‘intentional’ community of the backstretch of the Saratoga Springs thoroughbred racetrack as a “a voluntary community forged through a common occupation—the care of the racehorse. Here the assistant trainers, exercise riders, jockeys, and others tend to the horses that are a locus for wealthy owners and high-society spectators and bettors. This backside community creates its own identity through naming practices, speech, and the use of language. It is a community that views itself as generous, open, and regular yet is marked by secrecy and control and ruled by chance. Because the workers’ future is never certain, allegiances are tenuous and identities are constructed.” [From “An Ethnography of the Saratoga Racetrack,” by Ellen McHale, Voices 29(1–2), 2003.]
NYFS Annual Conference: OCCUPATIONAL FOLKLORE|
March 2, 2013, ArtsWestchester,
White Plains, NY
“Occupational Folklore” is the theme of the 2013 New York Folklore Society ’s annual conference, hosted by ArtsWestchester and produced in collaboration with ArtsWestchester and Long Island Traditions.
Dulio Prado’s crew assembles a wall in Bedford, New York. Photo: Tom van Buren
|“...a fashionable revival of
the farm wall—which Katonah-based journalist
and author Susan Allport calls “walls
of affluence” in her 1990 book Sermons
in Stone—has drawn hundreds of Latin
American stoneworkers, who can often
trace their ancestry to epic wall builders
of the Andes...Brazilian Dulio Prado and
his mostly Guatemalan crew...have the distinction of being some of the fastest
dry-wall builders in the region.”|
[From “Set in Stone: The Art of Stone and Wall Building in Westchester County,” by Tom van Buren.]
Juan “Bon Bom” Galbez with horse with a hacerie chapé, a Chilean braided mane.Galbez is an outrider for the New York Racing Association. Photo: Dorothy Ours, courtesy of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Everett Nack and son launch their fishing boat on the Hudson River. Photo Ellen McHale
|Shad Fishing on the Hudson|
Shad fishing has been an occupation on the Hudson River for many years. Almost destroyed by pollution, shad fishing is making a comeback. Producer Ginger Miles interviewed fisherman Everett Nack about the folkways of this occupational craft.
READ a verbatim TRANSCRIPT of the documentary.
READ the INTERVIEW in Voices 29(1–2), 2003.
HEAR THE DOCUMENTARY