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Center for Acadian & Creole Folklore

The Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore produces books and articles, records and tapes which communicate new discoveries and interpretations to community members as well as scholars. The Center explores ways to tap the rich, living resource in French Louisiana.

In 1974, the University of Southwestern Louisiana established the Center. Since then, this center and its sister Center for Louisiana Studies (created in 1973) have provided a focal point for Louisiana French cultural and linguistic research. Copies of important historical fieldwork, including that of Alan Lomax, Joseph Médard Carrière, Ralph Rinzler, Harry Oster, and Elizabeth Brandon, have been added to contemporary staff and student research to make for the largest collection of its kind anywhere. But the collection is not an end in itself. Instead, it is intended to serve as a resource bank for a cultural recycling project.

Preserving our Acadian & Creole Heritage

When the Center acquired copies of the 1934 field recordings made by John and Alan Lomax, it was not only to repatriate this important research for archival purposes. Copies were provided to the families of the original performers, and contemporary musicians were encouraged to use the collection as a source for "new" material. In this spirit of cultural recycling, the Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore also organizes festivals and special performances, television and radio programs, and offers classes and workshops through the University's French and Francophone Studies program.

Singers and storytellers perform in classes and special lectures series on campus. Student and faculty researchers focus on a wide range of subjects, including the traditional Mardi Gras, traiteurs, folk religion, folk justice, traditional humor, social institutions, foodways, dances, and material culture. This research typically focuses on contemporary as well as historical aspects of the issues, considering folklore as a vital, ongoing process rather than as a stagnant product.

The roots and development of Cajun and Creole folklore are actively explored, taking researchers back to the regions of France (especially Poitou, Vendée and Bretagne) that provided most of the French settlement of Louisiana, as well as the other major sources of influence, including Spain, Germany, England, Ireland, Québec and the Acadian Maritimes, the West Indies and Africa. Of particular interest is the process of creolization, the unique blending of cultures that occurred in Louisiana to produce the folk architecture, music, oral tradition, and cuisine of the region.

Reaching a New Generation

The Center also works regularly with elementary and secondary teachers to help them develop ways to bring Louisiana's own French culture and language into their classrooms. Interestingly, just as linguistic studies from the 1940s and '50s contributed material for folkloristic research, today's folklore fieldwork is contributing material for linguistic study. The Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore contains hundreds of hours of interviews with native Louisiana French speakers, and in most cases, being interviewed by other native Louisiana French speakers, thus providing natural unselfconscious conversations in most of the sub-regional dialects of South Louisiana from the Golden Triangle of southeast Texas to New Orleans and from Avoyelles Parish to the Gulf.

Location & Direction

Directed by Barry Jean Ancelet,
Location: 313 Dupré Library, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Mail: P.O. Box 40831, Lafayette, LA 70504

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