One of the most exciting areas of research in folklore is that which we call “occupational folklore.”
The website of the New York Folklore Society defines “occupational folklore” in this manner.
Occupational Folklore refers to the shared knowledge held by workers within a specific occupational group, as expressed through narrative arts, shared techniques and information, and through shared technology and hand-made objects. Historically, folklorists such as John and Alan Lomax, and Archie Green collected the occupational lore of specific male-dominated professions such as lumbermen, fishermen, miners, and cowboys. More recently studies have been conducted with firefighters (McCarl); trial lawyers; bar-tenders (Bell); subway workers (Gargulski); and masons (van Buren).
It also describes the intention behind the Archie Green Fellowship offered by the Library of Congress American Folklife Center every year:
The Archie Green Fellows Program of the Library of Congress honors the legacy of folklorist Archie Green through the Library of Congress’s Folklife Center’s support of the collecting of occupational folklore. Since 2009, collecting projects have been supported with such disparate occupational groups as dairy farmers; beauticians; Boeing Plant workers; dock-workers and longshoremen; Erie Canal workers; taxi drivers; circus workers; and Thoroughbred Racetrack stablehands. Of interest to the folklorist collecting occupational folklore are shared narrative expressions (storytelling, jokes, proverbs); shared beliefs; tools and specialized clothing; and shared knowledge of occupational skills and processes.
Archie Green was a tireless advocate/folklorist for the creative lives and human dignity of all workers. Read more about his great life in his own Wikipedia page.
The Archie Green Fellowships were established in FY2010 with Congressional support to honor the memory of this pioneering folklorist and to enable “the documentation and analysis of the culture and traditions that arise from, and are passed on by, American workers.”
We are happy and proud that our SFA Folklorist in Residence for 2014-2015, Nic Hartmann, has become a recipient of an Archie Green Fellowship in the latest round of awards made just last month. His proposal “The Crossroads of Confianza: A Study of the Fresh Produce Industry in Nogales, Arizona” competed with proposals from all over the country. A big factor, perhaps, in the proposal’s success was the support and collaborative nature of the research Nic will undertake with the Fresh Produce Association in Nogales.
Nic will be conducting fieldwork in Nogales during the Fall months. His research will involve observation, interviews, and perhaps a little “participation” (we hope to offer in the near future pictures of Nic developing his biceps loading boxes of fresh cantaloupes from Caborca on their way to Chicago!) SFA looks forward to publishing a short monographs of Nic’s work in 2016.