john h. mcdowell


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My research interests:



New in 2019

Children’s Folklore Section, American Folklore Society: Lifetime Achievement Award


UC Berkeley Folklore Podcast: “Interview with Visiting Professor John McDowell” (episode 4)


“Taita Imbabura: Reverence and Mirth in Mountain Worship.”

Folklor Edebiyat (Folklore & Literature): Prof. Dr. Ihan Basgöz 100th Special Issue, pages 759-769:



New in 2018:

“Transitionality: The Border as Barrier and Bridge.” In Border Folk Balladeers: Critical Studies on Américo Paredes,

edited by Roberto Cantú. Cambridge Press, pages 86-101.


“Folklore and Sociolinguistics.” Humanities 7, 9: 1-12.


“Collage of Colors: Processing Place through Fantasy Play.” Children’s Folklore Review 39 (2018): 62-91.



See the George List collection of traditional Afro-Colombian tales

introduced and edited by John with Juan Sebastián Rojas,

Animal Tales from the Caribbean

Click here



See John's 2015 corrido book --


The Living Ballad of Mexico’s Western Coast

Click here



Student folklore website
(Check it out!)


As a folklorist steeped in the ethnography of performance and communication, I have found myself on the edge and sometimes in the middle of many richly expressive moments.  This quest has carried me to three continents (and an island or two), into homes, plazas, churches, and cabildos in dozens of villages, towns and cities.  It is my style to travel light, avoid the authorities as much as possible, and seek out the good-hearted people of a place, and in this I have been fabulously successful.  It has been my fortune to attract or stumble upon a remarkable group of magical helpers, people sharing my own deep-seated reverence for the play of creativity and tradition.  I think of Miguel Arizmendi, Francisco Tandioy, Kwesi Yankah, Raul Mayo, Luis Alberto Yamberla and Alonso Diaz, and many others who guided my steps and awakened my mind to the wonders of their native districts.  They brought me to the musicians, dancers, poets, and pranksters, to the wise mayores and talented juglares, who animate in their voices and actions the legacies of their regions.  At times I found riddles, or nicknames; at other times ballads, or stories imbued with mythic consciousness.  I made it my rule to respond, I hope with some agility, to what occupied the energies of those around me.  With my visually-oriented wife, Patricia Glushko, whose photographs are featured here, and more recently, our son Michael assisting with the video work, I have had some success in documenting the performances of these talented traditional artists, some of which we share with you on this web site.   

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      Last Modified August 21, 2018