Practice theory in folklore and folklife studies

Simon J. Bronner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Since the 1960s, folkloristic approaches in North America and Europe have been thematised with the keywords of performance and practice, respectively. Although the orientations built around the keywords share a concern for conceptualising folklore as a type of expressive action, significant theoretical differences are apparent. Arising at a similar juncture in the twentieth century in response to social upheaval, they differ in the use of explanation or generalisation with performance often representing singularity (and emergence) of an event and practice signifying the aggregate (and precedence) of folk behaviour. An evaluation of their trajectories into the twenty-first century suggests the more expansive explanatory potential of practice theory in folklore and folklife studies, particularly if the mission of such studies is oriented toward a "mobile ethnography" of everyday life. Although sharing sociological and anthropological theories of practice advanced by Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens, folkloristic ideas of practice focus on cognitive and cultural rationales underlying repeated, variable behaviour and framed activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-47
Number of pages25
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History


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