100 Creatives 2012: Carl Lindahl, folklorist, UH professor

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Photo by Dallas McNamara
Carl Lindahl is a folklorist, Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, fellow of the American Folklore Society and a humanitarian. Originally from Chicago, Lindahl received his BA in English literature and medieval studies at Harvard University. It was during his freshman year at Harvard that he took a folklore course, Oral and Early Literature taught by Albert Lord, which first sparked his interest in folklore. He would later take a professor's suggestion to attend Indiana University, which has one of the only and oldest programs in folklore, earning both an MA and Ph.D. in Folklore.

Soon after he accepted his first job, as an English professor at the University of Houston. Besides teaching English courses there, he is also one of the only teachers at UH who teaches folklore.

What he does:
Lindahl is now a recognized authority in folk narrative, with specializations in American folktale, Cajun and Appalachian folk culture and medieval folklore.

He is also author of several books including his first book, Earnest Games: Folkloric Patterns in the Canterbury Tales and Cajun Mardi Gras Masks, which he co-authored with Carolyn Ware. He's also co-editor of Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, a book on Cajun culture, which was named the Louisiana Humanities Book of the Year.

In 2005 he and fellow folklorist Pat Jasper, founded Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston [SKRH], the world's first project in which disaster survivors "have taken the lead in documenting their own disaster." Lindahl says his ultimate goal for the project has been to give the survivors of Katrina a voice by giving them the opportunity to provide aid for themselves as well as fellow survivors so that they would no longer be looked at as victims, but as survivors.

"These survivors want to do more. It's better for them to do more. They are the people best equipped to help each other and they need to help each other. "

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Why he likes it:
He loves folklore. He loves doing fieldwork. He says that the soul of folklore is fieldwork. He was in Scotland for a while studying Scottish narrative and tries to get back there every summer to continue his studies.

What inspires him:
"The fact that I think there is so much artistry and creativity that lives offstage as it were, lives in every day life and I spend most of my career listening to people tell these amazing complex stories and do these amazingly creative things that I consider absolutely major art and seeing these individuals do these things and being able to write about them and talk about them in ways that give other people exposure to an understanding of the kind of artistry they can create offstage is the really important thing that's really inspirational."

If not this, then what:
"I think I'd be very unhappy." He says he enjoys teaching literature, but if he weren't doing that he would want to get involved in some social cause.

"I think everybody wants to do something helpful to humanity. Since I've been working on the Katrina project not only am I seeing these individuals tell their stories in really artful and important ways, but I've seen that it has also had this incredibly helpful effect on them."

If not here, then where:
"I love Chicago where I come from. I love the Appalachians. I love Southern Louisiana, I love Scotland." But it's hard for him to imagine not living in Houston...at least part of the time. He says he loves the weather and the people here.

What's next:
He has been working on a grant proposal, which will implement policies that allow survivors to have a greater hand in their recovery. He has been putting this together along with ethnographers, public health and trauma specialists, anthropologists and other folklorists from five different countries.

"We're also trying to involve Haiti, Italy and Sierra Leone."

And in November, he will be flown to Japan where he will be participating in a conference on how to respond to disasters. Authorities who had read some of his work on Katrina are interested in applying a similar project there for Japanese tsunami survivors.

Other than that he's been doing some work on folk culture in the Appalachian Mountains and is working on finishing up a book on folktales in the Mountains.

More Creatives for 2012
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer
Tom Stell, actor, writer, director
Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder

Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer
Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher

Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director
Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician

Matthew Detrick, classical musician
Travis Ammons, filmmaker
Florence Garvey, actress
Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker

Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder

Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist
Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist
JoDee Engle, dancer
David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher
Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor
Jessica Janes, actress and musician
Dennis Draper, actor and director

Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter
Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist

Adriana Soto, jewelry designer
Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist
Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof
Patrick Turk, visual artist
Elizabeth Keel, playwright
Bob Martin, designer
Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer
Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer
Jeremy Wells, painter
George Brock, theater teacher
Radu Runcanu, painter
Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media
Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker
Philip Hayes, actor

Patrick Palmer, painter
Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer
John Tyson, actor
Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker
Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer
Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music
Laura Burlton, photographer
David Peck, fashion designer
Rebecca Udden, theater director
Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer
Paul Fredric, author
John Sparagana, photographer
Damon Smith, musician and visual artist
Geoff Winningham, photographer

Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist
Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor

Katya Horner, photographer
Johnathan Felton, artist
Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer

Carol Simmons, hair stylist
Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet
Greg Carter, director
Kenn McLaughlin, theater director
Justin Whitney, musician
Antone Pham, tattoo artist
Susie Silbert, crafts

Lauralee Capelo, hair designer
Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer
Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ
ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer
Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director
J.J. Johnston, theater director
Mary Margaret Hansen, artist
Richard Tallent, photographer
Viswa Subbaraman, opera director
Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist
Sonja Roesch, gallery owner
Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor
Sandy Ewen, musician
Camella Clements, puppeteer

Wade Wilson, gallery owner

Magid Salmi, photographer
Carl Williams, playwright

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