What is it that a folklorist and sociocultural anthropologist does? Or, what is a folklorist? A sociocultural anthropologist?
Those are pretty big questions. Ask 10 different folklorists and anthropologists and you are likely to get just as many different answers. But, this folklorist/sociocultural anthropologist will give you some of the basics. If you are interested in what folklorists mean when we talk about folklore, check out my blog post on that topic. And to find out what sociocultural anthropologists mean when they say culture, check out this post.
Folklorists and sociocultural anthropologists are academics who work in academe, applied, and public sectors including governmental, museum, and business. We study people, both the individual and groups and communities. We are culture workers who practice ethnography—the documentation of cultures or particular segments of culture. This is important work as it influences policy-making decisions, it creates spaces for the inclusion of voices that are silenced, and it helps us see the plethora of possibilities that there are for being human. There are other reasons to do this work as well. I came to these disciplines because I am curious about the human condition and folkloristics and sociocultural anthropology offers tools and theories to better understand how people live in the world in relation to the different bodies of knowledge, beliefs, and actions that we call “culture.” As scholars, we still don’t have a simple definition of what culture is, but that is ok because it is not a simple thing.
If you want to learn more about what folklore is, check out the American Folklore Society’s website. And if you are interested in anthropology as it is practiced in the United States, then check out the American Anthropological Association’s website. Folklorists and anthropologists are doing brilliant and important work and I can’t capture all of the greatness here, so go check them out! If it relates to culture then there has probably been a folklorist or anthropologist that has worked on it.