Folkloristics is the academic study of folklore, which encompasses lore and a lot more, including traditional livelihood practices .
What do they do?
Simon John, a state-level hockey player, was an economics honours student at St Xavier’s College in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. Instead of being interested in studying the markets, he got drawn to the buzzing ambience of the department of folklore studies on campus. “They used to organise lots of activities throughout the year and go to the field (for documentation) and hold drama festivals. The department was very lively. It was (folkloristics) very inter-disciplinary and not just class-room teaching,” says John, now a folklorist from the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI), currently on deputation at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi. Folkloristics is indeed inter-disciplinary. It’s field-based and practical-oriented. It’s about lore and a lot more, including traditional livelihood practices. “It’s a study of oral tradition, whatever is transmitted from one generation to another orally,” explains John. It has four categories: Oral literature — encompassing songs, proverbs, myths, laments, lullabies etc Customs and beliefs — generally includes everything related to a community’s faith, such as gods and goddesses, rituals, beliefs, vows, offerings, fasts, festivals, rituals for marriage, birth and funerals Performing arts — dance, music, theatre and narratives fall in this category. Every state has thousands of art forms. It’s related to vernacular religious practices, life cycle ceremonies and the vernacular calendar Material culture — covers all crafts, even the construction of traditional houses, says John. Folklore is mostly taught as part of regional languages and literature. With thousands of languages, dialects and a vast maze of cultures, India is virtually a “paradise for folklorists,” says MD Muthukumaraswamy, director, National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai. According to Muthukumaraswamy, tuning into folklore studies can clear some mental blocks people may have. “The British created a schism between our academic institutions and our folk traditions. There’s a lack of awareness about our surrounding community. There are misconceptions about our traditions. Many people think that folk traditions are dying (in fact, they are vibrant) and that they are an expression of underdevelopment. These are misconceptions.” Today, it’s critical to study folklore as it’s entwined with the communities’ livelihoods. “We should not segregate the form and the folk or the folk and the lore,” says John. If you are interested in taking the plunge into this field, there are few institutes to pick from. Afterwards, career options make a short file: . AnSI (only one post) . Museums . Universities and colleges with this department . All India Radio . Departments of art and culture . Sangeet Natak Akademi . Non-government organisations (NGOs) . IGNCA Students will most likely have to make an effort to carve a niche for themselves in this field. The enterprising kinds can start NGOs.
. Strong observation and analytical skills . Inter-personal skills . Be adaptable and resourceful . Good presentation and writing skills . Be self-motivated
How do I get there?
Study humanities in Class 11 and Class 12. Go for a degree in social science or language/literature, followed by a masters in folklore. A PhD qualification is usually required for research and academic positions. Many national and international bodies (Ministry of Culture, Ford Foundation, ICSSR, Japan Foundation, among others) offer various kinds of support.