An Exploration of the Literature on Oppressed Folklore

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Folktales, Folk Bodies

There is little true sociological work done on folklore, and even less done on how folklore can be used to complicate (post)colonial narratives. There is however an extensive set of literature existing in the murkily identified field of folklore studies, which at times has an anthropological lean, but can none the less be taken up in a sociological framework. It is in this fringe field that ideas around colonialism and indigenous/minority bodies are contested, inverted and reclaimed. In this review I shall break down eight separate articles into three general themes, each with a brief discussion on the articles relevance to that theme, and then to how the articles and and their theme work to raise question about colonial history and narratives.

First off is a brief list of these articles and the themes they share. The articles: “'They Could Make Their Victims Dull': Genders and Genres, Fantasies and Cures in Colonial Southern Uganda” (1995) by Louise White, “Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle: The Negotiation of Black Occupational Identity Through Personal Experience Narrative” (1983) by Jack Santino, “The King's Two Lives: The Tunisian Legend of Saint Louis” (2006) by Afrodesia E. McCannon, and “An Axis Jump: British Colonialism in the Oral Folk Narratives of Nineteenth-Century India” (2001) by Sadhana Naithani can be loosely grouped under a title of “Folklores of Resistance”, though they at the same time expose different underlying currents. They second thematic category can be called “Appropriated Folklores” and includes the articles “The Politics of Taking: La Llorona in the Cultural Mainstream” (2012) by Domino Renee Perez and “Vampires Anonymous and Critical Race Practise” (2009) by Robert A. Williams Jr. The final theme is entitled “Folk Histories” and the articles “The Role of Folklore in Pepetela's Histography of Angola” (2012) by Daniel Colón and “The Story of Colonialism, or Rethinking the Ox-hide Purchase in Native North America ans Beyond” (2011) by Jason Baird Jackson. While this may look like an incoherent list their relevance to their themes, to each other, and to the topic as a whole shall be discussed below. Before that however a working conception of folklore should be given. Colón gives the best outline of what folklore is for the purposes of this paper stating that “folklore is something that develops over time, from generation to generation, and that what is transmitted is knowledge, wisdom, and news, or (hi)stories of important events.” as well as “folklore is traditionally understood as belonging to the marginalized strata of society”, though later in this paper the latter shall be contested in some ways. “Folklores of Resistance”

Folklores of Resistance can be understood as a means of defying and fighting a colonizing force passively when direct action is unwise (such as technological superiority by the colonizing power), or altogether unable to occur (such as the development of “Protectorates, and other political agenda's, which will be discussed in relation to McCannon's work). Naithani states that “Colonialism generated not only the discourse of the European orientalists but also a vast discourse amongst the colonized.” This leads to the implication that the very presence of a colonizing body allows for a space in which new narratives can be developed about the colonizers, and the colonized. As an example Naithani (2001) cites a British Administrator, William Cooke, who was working in India collecting Folklore in the late nineteenth century: In India the popular idea about Momiai is that a boy, the fatter and blacker the better, is caught, a small hole is bored in the top of his head, and he is hung up by the heels over a slow fire. The juice or essence of his body is in this way distilled into seven drops of the potent medicine known as Momiai ... It is further believed that a European gentleman, known as the Momiai-wala-Sahib,...
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