I have devoted my life and career broadly to the study of cultural history and psychological ethnology, and more specifically to interpreting American folklife and material culture. I invite you to look around the site for programming, projects, and publications that interest you in the many areas that radiate from this study. I hold the title of distinguished university professor of American Studies and folklore at Penn State Harrisburg and I have also taught at Harvard University, Osaka University (Japan), Leiden University (Netherlands), Dickinson College, University of California at Davis, and Utah State University. I have been the author or editor of over thirty books and currently edit two book series: Jewish Cultural Studies for Littman in Oxford, England and Material Worlds for the University Press of Kentucky. Since 2011, I have been editor of the Encyclopedia of American Studies, an online resource published by Johns Hopkins University Press in cooperation with the American Studies Association. At Penn State Harrisburg, I direct the American Studies Program which offers doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees. I also am involved in outreach and research activities such as the Center for Holocaust and Jewish Studies, for which I serve as lead scholar, and the Center for Pennsylvania Culture Studies, for which I was the founding director. I have global interests and local involvement; I am active in public programming for arts, history, and culture partnering with a number of regional agencies, including the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Historical Society of Dauphin County. On this site, I have separated these endeavors into different tabs for you to browse and comment.
Images on the blog, befitting my interest in visual culture, reflect documentary work I have done. On this page, for example, is a Pennsylvania German Bank Barn near Penn State Harrisburg that we fondly call “The Star Barn.” I regularly lead students to the site to talk about material culture and we are working with its owner on its preservation and eventual move from its present site surrounded by suburban development. You might notice a photo of me my office showing a poster from the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress (where many of my papers and field collections are deposited). And on this page combining ancient and modern concerns is a photo showing a Jewish “yad” used to read the Torah being applied to the computer. (This comes to mind because of my recent work on “digital culture” or “cyberculture” and the Internet as a folk system). The image comes from a poster for an international conference I helped organize on Modern Jewish Culture in Wroclaw, Poland. My recent research has been on the strongman figure and strength athletics in American culture. I am also completing textbooks on folklore and American culture, both for Routledge. My welcome message in different languages represents different cultures with which I have worked or visited: in order after English (I have studied customs of the British Isles as well as North America)–Netherlands, Germany, Yiddishland, France, Poland, Japan, China, Israel, and Arab and African American communities.
Documenting Star Barn, Middletown, Pennsylvania, with material culture students