Dorothy P. Noyes
In recognition of the major contribution of Professor Dorothy Noyes to international folkloristics and her fruitful cooperation with the University of Tartu, the University of Tartu has conferred on her the degree of Honorary Doctor in Folkloristics.
Dorothy P. Noyes is a leading researcher in the field of folklore studies and a vigorous proponent of international collaboration. She was born in 1960 in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago (USA). She attended Indiana University for her bachelor’s degree in English (1983) and earned her master’s degree (1987) and doctoral degree (1992) at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied in the Department of Folklore and Folklife under the eminent folklorist Roger D. Abrahams.
Since 1996 she has been a professor at the Ohio State University in the USA. Her joint appointment between the Departments of English and Comparative Studies, courtesy appointments in Anthropology, French and Italian, and Germanic Languages and Literatures, as well as her affiliation with the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, attest to her extensive knowledge and widely recognised expertise.
Dorothy Noyes is a highly esteemed scholar of festival and political performance and an outstanding specialist in folklore theory and history. Fluent in Catalan, French, Spanish and Italian, she has conducted extensive research on and in Catalonia and western Europe more broadly. Her path-breaking research, which combines folklore studies with insights drawn from political science and international relations, has opened up new opportunities for scholars interested in exploring expressive culture as a means of agency in diverse contexts, past and present.
She has been a fellow at the Camargo Foundation (France), the Shelby Cullom Davis Center of Princeton University (USA), and the Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Germany), besides holding visiting positions and lecturing in over 15 countries, including repeatedly at the University of Tartu. She has supervised eight dissertations and served on 24 dissertation committees.
The first book by Dorothy Noyes, published in 1989, focused on the traditional arts of Italian Americans in Philadelphia. She conducted long-term fieldwork in the Catalonian town of Berga for her doctoral dissertation, which served as the basis for her second book, Fire in the Plaça: Catalan Festival Politics after Franco (2003). A recipient of several important awards, this now classic monograph about the Patum of Berga, a unique centuries-old fire festival, has come to serve as a model for studying collective performances as arenas for cultural and political representations and struggles.
Professor Noyes has edited and co-edited a number of volumes and has published numerous articles and book chapters, including in Spanish, Catalan, French, Serbo-Croatian, and Japanese. Many of her articles, collected and republished under the title Humble Theory: Folklore’s Grasp on Social Life (2016), have become canonical texts in folklore studies.
An eloquent writer and keen observer of the contemporary world, she is adamant about the need to thoroughly examine the premises of folkloristics and to think critically about its alliances and various cultural regimes. She has reflected on her interdisciplinary experiences in Sustaining Interdisciplinary Collaboration: A Guide for the Academy (2017), coauthored with Regina F. Bendix and Kilian Bizer, and her current project, Exemplary Failures: Gesture, Pedagogy, and Progress in Liberal Politics, brings the methods of folklore study to bear on canonical Western texts and actors.
Dorothy Noyes’ commitment to the field is also evident in her scholarly administrative work, where, as in her research, she exercises her vision of folklore studies as an international arena. She has made determined, fruitful efforts to create, facilitate and strengthen relations between folklorists working on different continents and within diverse scholarly traditions. She has served on the Executive Boards of the Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore and of the American Folklore Society, both of which are world organisations of ethnologists and folklorists. In 2016 she was elected the President of the American Folklore Society.
In her efforts to advance international collaboration, Professor Noyes has always kept the University of Tartu in mind. As the Director of the OSU Center for Folklore Studies (2005–2014), she initiated partnerships with colleagues from Tartu and hosted UT doctoral students at the OSU. She was instrumental in launching H-Folk, the international listserv of folk culture scholars, and invited UT researchers to serve as its first editors.