Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My UMR Presentation on Ethics in Folklore

I have just returned from Rochester, Minnesota, where I gave a lecture on "Folklore as Expression of Ethics: European and African Examples." The lecture, which I mentioned on this blog,  was part of the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) Connects program.

I learned about the UMR Connects during a meeting of the board of Rochester International Association (RIA) of which I am a member. I offered to propose a topic to the UMR Connects for a presentation, in line with the request by the UMR Connect that the focus for April be ethics. As a folklorist, I chose to focus on "Folklore as Expression of Ethics: European and African Examples."

I was pleased to share with the audience how African and European folklore mediates ethical issues and concerns. I presented several African proverbs and two folktales, and discussed European folktales such as "Snow White" and "The Emperor's New Clothes." I also cited the Poetic Edda and The Kalevala. In regard to their concern with ethics, the similarities between the African and European folklore traditions were obvious.

After my talk, audience members asked questions. One of these was whether there were contradictory messages in proverbs. I said that was, indeed, the case, and I offered examples from the Swahili tradition. I explained that proverbs embody a deep understanding of social and other phenomena and are therefore used by the elders, because these are sophisticated enough to know which proverb applies to which situation.

I had a great time with the people of Rochester. I look forward to being there again on April 29, when I will be participating in the World Festival organized by the RIA. I will be participating as an author, talking about my books, and as a cultural consultant. I welcome everyone.

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