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Diagnosing Folklore - Perspectives on Disability, Health, and Trauma

Diagnosing Folklore

Perspectives on Disability, Health, and Trauma

Edited by Trevor J. Blank & Andrea Kitta
Paperback : 9781496814753, 252 pages, 1 table, September 2017
Hardcover : 9781496804259, 240 pages, 1 table, October 2015

How the collision of folk understandings with medical definitions affect disability and stigma


Diagnosing Folklore provides an inclusive forum for an expansive conversation on the sensitive, raw, and powerful processes that shape and imbue meaning in the lives of individuals and communities beleaguered by medical stigmatization, conflicting public perceptions, and contextual constraints. This volume aims to showcase current ideas and debates, as well as promote the larger study of disability, health, and trauma within folkloristics, helping bridge the gaps between the folklore discipline and disability studies.

This book consists of three sections, each dedicated to key issues in disability, health, and trauma. It explores the confluence of disability, ethnography, and the stigmatized vernacular through communicative competence, esoteric and exoteric groups in the Special Olympics, and the role of family in stigmatized communities. Then, it considers knowledge, belief, and treatment in regional and ethnic communities with case studies from the Latino/a community in Los Angeles, Javanese Indonesia, and Middle America. Lastly, the volume looks to the performance of mental illness, stigma, and trauma through contemporary legends about mental illness, vlogs on bipolar disorder, medical fetishism, and veterans' stories.


"Diagnosing Folklore showcases some of the most thoughtful scholarship that folklorists who study health issues are capable of producing and would make an excellent textbook in any number of classes, as well as a fieldwork guide. It should be required reading for anyone interested in further pursuing health-related ethnographies."

- Jon D. Lee, Journal of American Folklore 130 (2017)

"Each of these quirky and variegated contributors diagnoses a new complication in disability studies. I commend their diagnoses to your attention. These are prescriptions for new thinking."

- Katharine Young, Journal of Folklore Research

"This timely volume represents a worthy new step in the application of folklore to the study of health, illness, and care, and to related issues of communication, self-definition, and community practice. Case narratives and methodological discussions frame this book's particular focus on dis/ability, mental health and illness, socially stigmatized conditions, and social constructions of the 'normal.' It raises (but does not pretend to answer) tough questions about power, privilege, lived experience, the nature and location of 'expertise,' conceptual validity of the opinions and approaches of identity-group 'outsiders,' the nature of 'normality' and acceptability, and many more. It will be a valuable reference work not only within its own discipline, but among health care and health policy professionals who recognize the critical importance of trying to empathize with the experiences and perspectives of their intended beneficiaries. Let us hope their number is legion!"

- Bonnie B. O'Connor, folklorist and professor emerita of pediatrics at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University

"This is the book that profoundly shows how folklore touches lives at their core. It makes us realize how folklore opens for view, indeed defines, disability, health, and trauma in our consciousness. With provocative case studies, authors probe fundamental matters of normality and wellness in mind and body. Using folklore to guide a healthy checkup of basic notions of life, the book is a welcome dose of reality and culture to bridge science and the humanities and to invite our own self-examination."

- Simon J. Bronner, author of Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture and Campus Traditions: Folklore from the Old-Time College to the Modern Mega-University