The American Folklore Society held its annual meeting last week in New Orleans. And for the first time in AFS history, a panel of MACS students – led by MACS co-director, Amy Skillman – hosted a forum to discuss “Cultural Sustainability: Creating Leaders for Social Justice.” The forum was sponsored by the Politics, Folklore and Social Justice Section and was well attended by an enthusiastic and thoughtful group of folklorists. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about the MACS program and students’ applications of Cultural Sustainability theories and strategies through presentations by Michele Anderson, Michelle Banks, and Max Lannon. The panel also took the time to engage the forum attendees in discussions about Cultural Sustainability – as a field, strategy, and action – through a condensed version of an affinity mapping exercise, facilitated by yours truly (Sunny Fitzgerald).
Before giving our thoughts on Cultural Sustainability, we invited theirs. As part of the activity, attendees were asked to complete the sentence “Cultural Sustainability is…” Here are some of the answers they came up with:
- the ability of cultures to survive or change in their own terms despite outside pressures
- an applied research and practice process for providing tools and strategies for individuals and communities to address their needs in the present and towards the future
- ability to practice a culture involves choice + freedom + decision-making at a decentralized level
- a way to honor, conserve, and engage with traditional culture
- an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms? (A question!)
- hopefully not problematic (Not a given!)
- a garden without weeds
- adequate environmental resources
- healthy vision + identity + power
- the continuation of practices, rituals, performance, etc of importance to communities in a nurturing/fostering environment and society
- survival + revival
- community efforts ? supported by outside resources, to maintain the wherewithal to keep a form of expressive living
- processes + mechanisms
- nurture + foster
- maintenance + growth
- culture + expressive systems
- the reuse of old and defunct resources which still have value but which cannot survive alone.
- creating the circumstances whereby traditions (new and old) that are needed and wanted can survive and thrive
- process + mechanisms to maintain, and grow cultural and expressive activities/systems in community context
- needs and wants
- community context
- an intersection of commitments that catalyzes action on behalf of mutual embeddedness
- local action informed by global concern focusing on meaning and practice
- hybrid research and action collectives
- living cultures
- living well on a living planet
- a new emphasis
- helping cultures to continue to live in traditional ways
- a program at many/some universities
- a mindset
- holistic connections
- connecting disparate systems
- access to resources
- tools to enable change and broad-based stewardship
- imagining change
We have also plugged these responses into a word cloud (see photo above) that illustrates key terms that emerged from the activity and discussion.
Many thanks to the forum attendees for their participation and interest in our program and the broader field, concepts, and strategies of Cultural Sustainability. We look forward to continuing the conversation and collaborating across fields more in the future.
We are also looking forward to being joined by more MACSers at next year’s AFS meeting. The theme for the meeting has been announced; it will be “Cultural Sustainability”!
To learn more about affinity mapping and the second MACS cohort’s experience with this activity in the Intro to Cultural Sustainability course with Dr. Rory Turner (in collaboration with Dr. Ross Peterson-Veatch), please visit this link.
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Goucher's Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability is a completely unique new program. We teach our students how to work closely with individuals and communities to identify, protect, and enhance their important traditions, their ways of life, their cherished spaces, and their vital relationships to each other and the world.