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Barry Jean Ancelet at the Library of Congress, June 12, 2018

Botkin Folklife Lectures Plus: Barry Jean Ancelet on Theory and Practice of Folklore in Cajun and Creole Louisiana

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In the Botkin Folklife Lectures Plus series, we present selected lectures in our Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lectures series that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here.) In this post, we’ll feature a Botkin Lecture classic: Barry Jean Ancelet, Professor Emeritus at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, speaking on Theory and Practice of Folklore in Cajun & Creole Louisiana. As usual, this blog features videos of both the lecture and an interview with Barry Jean Ancelet. As you’ll hear John Fenn say in introducing our speaker, we have presented many eminent colleagues in the Botkin series, but few of them have made as significant an impact on the documentation, public awareness, and revitalization of their chosen areas of interest as Professor Ancelet has for Cajun and Creole culture in Louisiana. Even fewer of them have been officially knighted by the government of France for their efforts. Those are just a few of the reasons we’re delighted to present his lecture in our series.

Barry Jean Ancelet was born in Church Point, Louisiana, and grew up in the epicenter of Cajun and Creole culture. He studied French as an undergraduate at what was then the University of Southwestern Louisiana (later to be renamed the Louisiana University at Lafayette), and received a Masters in folklore from Indiana University, where he also taught for a few years before obtaining a doctorate in Études Créoles (anthropology and linguistics) from the Université de Provence in Aix-Marseille in 1984.

Three views of Barry Jean Ancelet: participant, professor, presenter. Photos by Philip Gould, courtesy of Barry Jean Ancelet.

Professor’s Ancelet’s lifelong commitment to Louisiana culture has served as the touchstone for his many landmark contributions as a scholar and a cultural activist both inside and outside the academy: He co-founded the Tribute to Cajun Music in 1974, which developed into the annual Festivals Acadiens; and for more than a decade hosted Rendez-vous des Cajuns, an influential weekly music radio program on KRVS. He has authored an impressive number of books and articles; has been involved in many recordings and documentary films; and as educator, has trained and guided a generation of scholars specializing in Cajun, Creole, and Franco American culture.

Ancelet has served as chair of University of Louisiana’ Modern Languages Department, as well as the founding director of its renowned Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore. His many other awards and honors include being named the Willis Granger and Tom Debaillon Professor of Francophone Studies at UL in 2005; and being made a Chevalier in l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Francaise in 2006 by the government of France for important contributions to French art and literature. In 2008, he was awarded the prestigious the Américo Paredes Prize by the American Folklore Society; and in 2009, he was named Louisiana “Humanist of the Year” by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He is also a poet, songwriter and singer, often under the pseudonym Jean Arceneaux, and his 2016 CD with Sam Broussard, Broken Promised Land, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Regional Roots Music category.

In the first player, watch Barry’s lecture, Theory and Practice of Folklore in Cajun & Creole Louisiana.

Barry Jean Ancelet is a figure of such stature and significance that it takes two of us to properly interview him. For that reason, the interview was conducted by Nancy Groce and me together. We touched on all aspects of his work in Cajun and Creole folklore, but we hope we were able to foreground his own concern with acting as an amplifier and assistant to those tradition bearers and transmitters that he likes to call “vernacular professors.” See the video in the player below.

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the lecture here at this link and the interview at this link.

Connection Collections and Links

A man approaches a microphone
Barry Jean Ancelet at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, 2014. Photo Courtesy of Barry Jean Ancelet.

If you enjoyed the lecture and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to Cajun, Creole, Acadian, and Louisiana music and culture.


Check out our Resource Guide to Louisiana Collections.

Online Collections

Homegrown Plus Blogs

Other Homegrown Concerts

Botkin Lectures


Thanks for Watching! You can find more Botkin Plus blogs at this link!

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