English Nationalism, Folklore and Indigeneity

Conference Presentation


Cheeseman, M. 2023. English Nationalism, Folklore and Indigeneity. ISCLR Perspectives on Contemporary Legend conference.
AuthorsCheeseman, M.
TypeConference Presentation
Abstract

In the United Kingdom, the growing popularity of folk horror has been accompanied by resurgent English nationalism in the wake of Scottish and Welsh devolution. Despite folk horror's purported connections to Brexit, it has an ambivalence to nation. While it is attached to the land, folk horror appeals to the illegible and unmediated, everything the nation is not. This paper explores this paradox by way of understanding the influence of 19th century folkloristics. As a result of British imperial power, Victorian anthropologists and folklorists were less concerned with documenting and discussing national folklore and more interested in developing theories and interpretations. One such theory, EB Tylor’s ‘doctrine of survivals’ suggests that vestiges of the deep past can be found buried in the habits, customs and legends of the present. Accompanying this however, is a discourse of savage indigeneity—of pagan survival—that influenced folk horror, particularly through its later intensification by Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner. This paper argues that pagan survival mobilises imperialist and exoticist discourses and provokes ethical questions in relation to the indigenous, who are summoned, colonised and maligned, even when they, as in the case of England, are not actually present in the living. Pagan survival is thus framed by folk horror as a contemporary legend. Drawing on scholarship concerned with the imaginative representation of Indigenous Americans, this paper proposes that comparable ethical care needs to be adopted by artists working within folk horror on the depiction of indigenous peoples and their artefacts, even when those people are extinct or lack a coherent contemporary identity. As such, this paper also validates creative practice as a form of research, carrying its own responsibilities towards the representation of contemporary legends.

KeywordsEDI; folklore; folkloristics; contemporary legend
Year2023
ConferenceISCLR Perspectives on Contemporary Legend conference
Web address (URL)https://contemporarylegend.co.uk/2022/12/05/call-for-papers-perspectives-on-contemporary-legend-conference-hosted-by-the-centre-for-contemporary-legend-at-sheffiedl-hallam-university/?fbclid=IwAR2ZJc2rAID-dH2UiIjQ1Qzee8jK0zMsvVjVtRFsBHJbIEkEIxEk39fc2gM
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Jun 2023
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https://repository.derby.ac.uk/item/9z356/english-nationalism-folklore-and-indigeneity

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