Two preeminent Island folklorists receive prestigious Marius Barbeau Medal

Posted: 
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
John Cousins and Georges Aresenault

From May 25–27, the Folklore Studies Association of Canada/L’Association canadienne d’ethnologie et de folklore will be holding its annual meeting at the University of Prince Edward Island in collaboration with the Institute of Island Studies. This year’s theme, “Carried on the Waves: Contemporary Currents in Folklore and Ethnology / Porté par les Vagues: Courants Actuels d’Ethnologie et de Folklore,” inspires researchers to explore the flow of expression among various groups over time and place.

Prince Edward Island has long served and continues to serve as an integral hub for multicultural contacts. As Marius Barbeau, widely acknowledged as the founder of Canadian folklore, observed in the Journal of American Folklore in 1918, “Prince Edward Island and some other parts of the Maritime Provinces are very conservative centers in which folklore still flourishes.” To this day the Island’s resilient communities continue their long legacy of offering key insights into the expression and transmission of communally maintained knowledge. Whether it is farming and fishing communities redefining their relationships to the land and sea based on the present realities of climate change, the digital construction of narrative in videogame design attracting new Canadians forging their own pathways, or the composition of a fiddle tune for commercial production within the music industry, all of the Island’s groups contribute to our understanding the ebb and flow of human experience.

The executive of FSAC/ACEF are very pleased to announce that both Georges Arsenault and John Cousins, two of Prince Edward Island’s most esteemed folklorists, will receive the association’s Marius Barbeau Medal. The medal is given in recognition of remarkable individual contributions to folklore and ethnology through teaching, research, and communication―activities in which both Arsenault and Cousins have excelled. Previous recipients of the Barbeau Medal with fieldwork links to PEI include Dr. John Shaw and the late Dr. Edward “Sandy” Ives.

As Dr. Edward MacDonald, chair of UPEI’s Department of History notes, “In the year when the Folklore Studies Association of Canada is meeting on PEI, it seems entirely appropriate to recognize two giants of Prince Edward Island folklore for their career contributions to the collection, study, dissemination, and popularization of folklore within this province and beyond: Georges Arsenault and John Cousins. Both Georges and John were born into the communities they have studied, giving them the unique perspective that comes from being at the same time both outsiders and insiders in their research. Both live a conviction that scholarship has a responsibility to speak to the general populace, a duty to help us all better understand the culture that forms our mental and physical landscapes.”

Both Arsenault and Cousins will be giving free lectures open to the general public as part of the conference. Arsenault will present a lecture in French on traditional songs with examples from his fieldwork in PEI’s Acadian communities, entitled “Recueillir, conserver et partager la chanson traditionnelle acadienne de l’Île-du-Prince- Édouard” on Friday, 25 May, from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm in the Faculty Lounge of UPEI’s SDU Main Building. Cousins will present a lecture from his fieldwork and historical research in West Prince communities and beyond in “The Witch & the Song Maker as Law Givers in Island Farming & Fishing Communities” on Saturday, May 26, from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm at Beaconsfield Carriage House, PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, in downtown Charlottetown.

All are welcome!

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island.

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