Folk Geography
The Human Mosaic
Chapter 7
Differences between popular and
folk culture

Popular culture
– Consists of large masses of people who
conform to and prescribe to ever-changing
norms
– Large heterogeneous groups
– Often highly individualistic and groups are
constantly changing
– Pronounced division of labor leading to
establishment of specialized professions
– Police and army take the place of religion and
family in maintaining order
Differences between popular and
folk culture
 Popular
culture
– Money based economy prevails
– Replacing folk culture in industrialized
countries and many developing nations
– Folk-made objects give way to their
popular equivalent
 Item
is more quickly or cheaply produced
 Easier or time-saving to use
 Lends prestige to owner
Differences between popular and
folk culture

Folk culture
– Made up of people who maintain the traditional
– Describes people who live in an old-fashioned
way-simpler life-style
– Rural, cohesive, conservative, largely selfsufficient group, homogeneous in custom
– Strong family or clan structure and highly
developed rituals
– Tradition is paramount — change comes
infrequently and slowly
Differences between popular and
folk culture
 Folk
culture
 Little
specialization in labor though duties
may vary between genders
 Subsistence economy prevails
 Individualism and social classes are weakly
developed
 In parts of the less-developed world, folk
cultures remain common
 Industrialized countries no longer have
unaltered folk cultures
Differences between popular and
folk culture
 Folk
culture
 The
Amish in the United States
– Perhaps the nearest modem equivalent in AngloAmerica
– German-American farming sect
– Largely renounces products and labor-saving
devices of the industrial age
– Horse-drawn buggies still used, and faithful own
no autos or appliances
– Central religion concept of demut, ”humility,”
reflects weakness of individualism and social class
– Rarely marry outside their sect
Differences between popular and
folk culture

Folk culture
 Typically,
bearers of folk culture combine folk and
nonfolk elements in their lives
 Includes both material and nonmaterial elements
– Material culture includes all objects or “things” made
and used by members of a cultural group—material
elements are visible
– Nomnaterial culture, including folklore, can be defined
as oral, including the wide range of tales, songs, lore,
beliefs, superstitions, and customs
 Other
aspects of nonmaterial culture include dialects,
religions, and worldviews
 Folk geography—defined as the study of the spatial
patterns and ecology of folklife
Culture Regions
 Folk
Culture Regions
 Folk Cultural Diffusion
 Folk Ecology
 Cultural Integration in Folk
Geography
 Folk Landscapes
Material folk culture regions
 Vestiges
of material folk culture
remain in various parts of the United
States and Canada
 Material artifacts of 15 culture
regions in North America survive in
some abundance though they are in
general decline
Material folk culture regions
 Each
region possesses many
distinctive items of material culture
– Germanized Pennsylvanian folk region—
has an unusual SwissGerman type of
barn
– Yankee folk region—traditional
gravestone art, with “winged death
heads,” and barns attached to the rear
of houses
Material folk culture regions
 Each
region possesses many
distinctive items of material culture
– Upland South region—notched-log
construction, used in building a variety
of distinctive house types such as the
“dogtrot”
Material folk culture regions
 Each
region possesses many
distinctive items of material culture
– African-American folk region—scrapedearth cemetery, banjo that originated in
Africa, and head scarfs worn by women
Material folk culture regions
 Each
region possesses many
distinctive items of material culture
– Quebec French folk region-grist
windmills with stone towers, and a
bowling game played with small metal
balls
– Mormon folk culture — distinctive hay
derricks and gridiron farm villages
– Western plains ranching folk culture —
the “beef wheel,” a windlass used during
butchering
Quebec
Quebec

Petanque, a
bowling game
played with metal
balls, diffused to
Canada with
French immigrants
in the 16th century.
It has persisted as
one aspect of
Quebec French folk
region.
Folk food regions
 Traditional
foods of folk cultures
probably endure longer than any
other trait
 In Latin America, folk cultures
remain vivid with diverse culinary
traditions
Folk food regions
Mexico—abundant use of chili peppers in
cooking and maize for tortillas
 Caribbean areas — combined rice-bean
dishes and various rum drinks
 Amazonian region — monkey and caiman
 Brazil — cuscuz (cooked grain) and
sugarcane brandy
 Pampas style — carne asada (roasted
beef), wine and yerba mate (herbal tea)
 Pacific-coastal Creole — manjar blanco (a
pudding)

Folk food regions
 Latin
American foods derive from
Amerindians, Africans, Spaniards,
and Portuguese
 Pattern of Latin American is not
simple and culinary regions are not
as homogeneous as the map we saw
suggests
Folklore regions
Displays regional contrasts in much the
same way as material folk culture
 Folk geographers consider diverse
nonmaterial phenomena as folktales,
dance, music, myths, legends, and
proverbs
 Most thoroughly studied in Europe

– First research appeared early in the nineteenth
century
– We know more about vanished folk cultures
than surviving ones
– Example of Switzerland
Folklore regions
 Four
cultural folk-song regions of
North America as recognized by Alan
Lomax
– Northern tradition
 Unaccompanied
solo singing in hard, openvoiced clear tones
 Based on British ballads
Folklore regions
 Four
cultural folk-song regions of
North America as recognized by Alan
Lomax
– Southern tradition
 Unison
singing is rare
 Solo is high-pitched and nasal
 Combines English and Scotch-Irish elements
 Ballads more guilt-ridden and violent than
those of the North
Folklore regions

Four cultural folk-song regions of North
America as recognized by Alan Lomax
– Western style-simply a blend of the Southern
and Northern traditions
– African-American tradition
– Contains both African and British elements
– Polyrhythmic songs of labor and worship with
instrumental accompaniment
– Chorus group singing, clapping, body swaying,
and strong, surging beat

Each tradition shows distinctive melodies,
instrumentation, and motifs
Culture Regions
 Folk
Culture Regions
 Folk Cultural Diffusion
 Folk Ecology
 Cultural Integration in Folk
Geography
 Folk Landscapes
Folk cultural diffusion
 Diffuses
by the same methods as
other cultural elements, but more
slowly
 Weakly developed social stratification
tends to retard hierarchical diffusion
 Inherent conservatism produces
resistance to change
 Essential difference between folk and
popular culture is speed by which
expansion diffusion occurs
Netherlands



The town of
Bunschoten
Spakensburg is one of
several in the
Netherlands retaining
elements of folk
tradition.
Many people continue
to dress in traditional
garb.
Since costumes differ
regionally, an expert
can tell where a
person is from by her
Folk cultural diffusion

Folk songs
– Slow progress of expansion diffusion in AngloAmerica religious folk songs in the United
States
 Eighteenth
century core area based mainly in Yankee
Puritan folk culture
 White spiritual songs spread southwest into the
Upland South
 Today, still retain greatest acceptance in Upland
South
 Disappearance from northern source region may be
because of urbanization and popularization of culture
in the North
Folk cultural diffusion
 Folk
songs
– Simple folk melodies of the spirituals
diffused by means of outdoor “revivals”
and “camp-meetings”
– Non-English-speaking people and nonprotestants were little influenced by
spiritual movement
 Language
and religion proved absorbing
barriers to diffusion
 French Canadians and Louisiana French
were not affected by the movement
Agricultural fairs
Originated in the Yankee region, spread
west and southwest by expansion diffusion
 A custom rooted in medieval European
folk tradition
 First American agricultural fair was held in
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1810

– Idea gained favor throughout Western New
England and adjacent Hudson Valley
– Diffused into the Midwest where it gained its
widest acceptance
Agricultural fairs
Originated in the Yankee region, spread
west and southwest by expansion diffusion
 A custom rooted in medieval European
folk tradition
 First American agricultural fair was held in
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1810

– Idea gained favor throughout Western New
England and adjacent Hudson Valley
– Diffused into the Midwest where it gained its
widest acceptance
Agricultural fairs

Normally promoted by agricultural
societies
– Originally educational in purpose
– Farmers could learn about improved methods
and breeds
– Entertainment function added — racetrack and
midway
– Competition for prizes for superior agricultural
products became common

By the early twentieth century, fairs had
diffused through most of the United States
Hay stackers
 Mountain
Western American folk
culture produced innovations
 Beaverslide hay stacker
– Originated in 1907 in Montana’s Big
Hole Valley
– Because of recent origin, we know more
about its diffusion
– 30-odd feet tall, wooden ramp structure
used to raise hay to the top of a stack
Hay stackers
 Beaverslide
hay stacker
– Employed horsepower to pull a basket
up an inclined surface
– Use spread to at least eight nearby
states and into three Canadian
provinces
Blowguns
Often past diffusion of a folk culture item
is not clearly known or understood, which
presents problems of interpretation
 Example of the blowgun — long, hollow
tube through which a projectile is blown
by force of breath
 Geographer Stephen Jett mapped
distribution of blowgun

– Found among folk societies in both the Eastern
and Western Hemispheres
– Used from the island of Madagascar to
Amazonian jungles of South America
Blowguns
Blowguns
Blowguns




Apparently first invented by Indonesian people on
the island of Borneo
Diffused with the Austronesian linguistic group
Spread through much of the equatorial island belt
of Eastern Hemisphere
Hard to account for its presence among
Amerindian groups in Western Hemisphere
– Was it independently invented by Amerindians?
– Was it brought by relocation diffusion in pre-Columbian
times?
– Did it spread to New World after European discovery of
America?
– No answers to above questions
African Stone Game, Malawi
African Stone Game, Malawi

These men are
playing a game
commonly known
as mancala.
Archaeological
evidence shows
that the game was
played in ancient
times in many
locations in Africa
and Asia including
Indonesia.
African Stone Game, Malawi

The 200 million years
ago existence of
Pangaea, a single
landmass that
subsequently broke
apart with continental
drift, would account
for the wide
distribution of the
stone game. Today it
is sold in stores across
America – an element
of folk culture in a
world of popular
Blowguns
Nonliterate condition of many folk cultures
precludes written records that might
reveal diffusion
 Jett favors transpacific diffusion from
Indonesia before the time of Columbus

– You must explain why it is not found in the
South Pacific islands and Africa
– If you support independent invention, you
must accept an identical device was invented
two times
– Cultural diffusion presents such problems
Blowguns
Independent invention is always possible
 Carl Sauer’s proposal that plant
domestication occurred independently in
both hemispheres helped free cultural
geographers from deterministic view that
each invention had a single origin
 If one or more nonfunctional features, of
blowguns, such as a decorative motif,
occurred in both hemispheres — diffusion
would be the logical conclusion

Culture Regions
 Folk
Culture Regions
 Folk Cultural Diffusion
 Folk Ecology
 Cultural Integration in Folk
Geography
 Folk Landscapes
Folk ecology
 Folk
group’s close relationship with
the physical environment
– Adaptive strategies possess
sustainability
– Livelihood gained directly through
primary activities — farming, herding,
hunting, gathering, and fishing
– Languages bear vocabularies required to
exploit the habitat
– Religions act to mitigate environmental
hazards
Folk ecology
Folk tales honor great hunters
 Proverbs offer wisdom concerning weather
and proper time for planting
 Architecture reflects local building
materials and climate
 One is tempted to conclude folkways exist
to facilitate the adjustment to physical
environment
 It is easy to believe the path of
environmental determinism

Folk ecology

Folkways involve more than merely
cultural adaptation
– A variety of folk cultures can exist in any
particular ecosystem
– They are not enslaved and wholly shaped by
their physical surroundings
– Not necessarily true that they live in close
harmony with their environment

Often soil erosion, deforestation, and
overkill of wild animals can be attributed
to traditional rural folk
Geophagy
 Defined—the
eating of earth
 Most common in parts of Africa and
in the American South among
Americans of African ancestry
 Certain kinds of clay are the
preferred earth for eating
Geophagy

In African source regions, clays are
consumed for a variety of reasons
– As a treatment for certain diseases and
parasites
– Provides nutrients for pregnant women and
growing children
– Consumed as part of religious ceremonies

In the African-American folk region of the
South coastal plain, geophagy is confined
mainly to pregnant black women and to
black children under the age of five
Folk medicine
 Common
to treat diseases and
disorders with drugs and medicines
derived from the root, bark,
blossom, or fruit of plants
 In the United States, folk medicine is
best preserved in the Upland South
 Particularly
southern Appalachia
 On some Indian reservations
 The Mexican borderland
Folk medicine
 Many
folk cures have proven
effectiveness
 Root digging in the Appalachians
– Much of the produce is now funneled to
dealers, who serve a larger market
– Remains at heart a folk enterprise
carried on in the old ways
– Requires the traditional through
knowledge of the plant environment
Folk medicine
 Mexican
folk culture region along the
southern border of Texas
– Still widely practiced by curanderos, or
“curers”
– Over four hundred medicines derived
from wild and domestic plants
– Perpetuates a tradition rooted in
sixteenth century Indian and Spanish
source
Folk medicine

Local folk medicine along the Texas southern
border is based on the belief health and welfare
depend on harmony between natural and
supernatural
– Disease and misfortune thought to involve some
disharmony
– The curandero strives to restore harmony by use of
counseling and botanical medicines
– In recent years fewer people have sought herbal
remedies for infections, sprains, or broken bones
– Curanderos now treat more cancer, diabetes, and
hypertension than before
– In response to change, some curanderos have become
virtual paramedics and employ antibiotics in some cures
Folk Medicine in Zimbabwe
Folk Medicine in Zimbabwe


Traditional healers in
Africa use an array of
environmental
products for rituals
and curatives.
Various roots, seeds,
and horns, as well as
skins from
endangered animals
can be seen in this
healer’s hut.
In African culture,
traditional medical
practitioners are
considered influential
spiritual leaders.
Folk Medicine in Zimbabwe


Some base their
reputation on
knowledge of biotica,
some claim
supernatural
diagnostic and healing
powers, and others
are witch doctors able
to intercept or
exorcise evil spirits.
All use plant and
animal materials in
their word.
Environmental perception
 When
folk culture groups, or
individuals, migrate they seek
environments similar to their own
homelands
 They function best in similar
environments because the lore of the
land passed down relates to one
particular ecosystem
 Overpopulation or other “push’
factors cause folk groups to migrate
Environmental perception

Migration of Upland Southerners from
Appalachia between 1830 and 1930
– Moved as Appalachians filled up
– Normally moved in clan or extended-family
groups
– Initially found environmental twin of
Appalachians in the Ozark-Ouachita Mountains
of Missouri and Arkansas
– Later, others sought out hollows, coves, and
gaps of the central Texas Hill Country
– Between 1880 and 1930 some 15,000
migrated to the Cascade and coastal mountain
ranges of Washington State
Environmental perception
 People
so close to nature remain
sensitive to subtle environmental
qualities
 “Planting by the signs,” is still found
among folk farmers in the United
States and elsewhere
Environmental perception

Folk groups are much more observant of
their ecosystems than those in popular
culture
– Folk groups strive for harmony with nature,
though they do not always achieve it
– Often ascribe animistic religious sanctity to
environmental forces and particular parts of
their habitat
Many people today lament the loss of a
closeness to nature
 Once the closeness of nature is lost, it is
impossible to regain because it was the
product of centuries of trial and error

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