Accepted paper:

Folklolistics as the vernacular anthropology: activities of the society for researching deity and forest of the Miyako Island


Takanori Shimamura

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to focus on the characteristics of Japanese folkloristics of which can be regarded as the vernacular anthropology. In particular, it depicts the reciprocal relationships between academic researchers and local residents.

Paper long abstract:

The Miyako Island has been well known for its practices of the village rituals, but its inheritance to the following generations became difficult in the 1990s. Under such condition, the folklorists from mainland Japan and local folklorists established the Society for Researching Deity and Forest of the Miyako Island in 1994. The analysis of this activity clarifies following five points. Firstly, the folklorists outside the field and local folklorists as vernacular intellectuals collaborated and established the group to research present, future, and past of the local folklores. Secondly, this group provided an opportunity to discuss about the local rituals by organizing symposiums with local residents. In this context, the local residents are not merely informants, and play their role as consultants. Furthermore, the accumulation of exchanges promoted revivals and inheritances of the local rituals. Thirdly, as a result, it created trusting relationships between researchers and local residents. It was clearly observed when a folklorist who was a core member of the group was sent off to the heaven (tokoyo常世) by local residents. Fourthly, the mutual understanding among them was achieved through the detailed communications by sharing the same language (Japanese). In particular, the local residents can access to the researchers' writings and the researchers constitute knowledge by expecting such interactions among them. Fifthly, the folklore can be defined as the vernacular anthropology in the sense that the main site of knowledge constitution is based on the relationships with vernacular intellectuals and local residents as consultants.

panel P130
Reinventing folkloristics as a study of modernity: Japanese perspectives (FSJ panel)