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Social Science Folklore & Mythology

Unsettling Assumptions

Tradition, Gender, Drag

edited by Pauline Greenhill & Diane Tye

Utah State University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2014
Folklore & Mythology, Gender Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2014
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 18
  • Grade: 12


In Unsettling Assumptions, editors Pauline Greenhill and Diane Tye examine how tradition and gender come together to unsettle assumptions about culture and its study.
Contributors explore the intersections of traditional expressive culture and sex/gender systems to question, investigate, or upset concepts like family, ethics, and authenticity. Individual essays consider myriad topics such as Thanksgiving turkeys, rockabilly and bar fights, Chinese tales of female ghosts, selkie stories, a noisy Mennonite New Year's celebration, the Distaff Gospels, Kentucky tobacco farmers, international adoptions, and more.
In Unsettling Assumptions, folkloric forms express but also counteract negative aspects of culture like misogyny, homophobia, and racism. But expressive culture also emerges as fundamental to our sense of belonging to a family, an occupation, or friendship group and, most notably, to identity performativity and the construction and negotiation of power.

About the authors


Pauline Greenhill is a professor at the University of Winnipeg.


Pauline Greenhill's profile page

Diane Tye is an associate professor in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland and co-editor (with Pauline Greenhill) of Undisciplined Women: Tradition and Culture in Canada.

Diane Tye's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"[T]his volume is unsettling at times. It is also groundbreaking. . . . The editors have skillfully selected a variety of essays that interpret traditional and contemporary cultural expressions and performances within a framework of gender and sexuality theory. Unsettling Assumptions should be on the bookshelf of everyone interested in the intersection of gender and folklore."
—J. Jeanine Ruhsam, New Directions in Folklore

“One of the most valuable accomplishments of the collection may be to familiarize a wider audience with the notion of ’ethnic drag’ and to expand the concept of drag beyond gender to a more general form of mimesis or play. And in its most fundamental ambition—to unsettle not only gender categories but also genre and disciplinary ones—we should acknowledge the book as a success.”
—Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

"[A]t once comforting and inspiring. The fact that gender roles have been challenged, even if in a hidden way, for so much longer than even a lifelong ally knew, is inarguable once one looks at folklore through the lens of this volume. With cultures other than white and western included here, the universality of the subject is addressed. I would recommend Unsettling Assumptions for college libraries, for anyone doing gender studies, or for adults who enjoy reading folklore."
—Frieda Toth, Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore


"This engaging collection of essays will stimulate lively and productive conversation, both in college classes and among scholars and general readers. . . . [A]n appealing source of well-theorized knowledge for readers with diverse interests. Let the conversations begin!"
—Elizabeth Tucker, Folklore

"[I]t is clear that this “collection has relevance beyond the classroom. One of the most outstanding features of Unsettling Assumptions is the diverse range of topics covered within, from Rockabilly to folktales. . . . By peeking behind the curtain and discussing many of the complex topics relating expressive culture and gender, Greenhill and Tye encourage on-going discussion. That is what this book beautifully provides, the chance to unsettle the reader’s current assumptions about the intersection of expressive culture and gender, encouraging strengthand growth through discomfort."
—Western Folklore

"This broad-ranging collection makes a significant and welcome contribution to the study and teaching of folklore; it also has an interdisciplinary reach into masculinity studies, queer theory, transgender studies, and cultural studies; and it succeeds in troubling certain assumptions in the discipline of folklore/ethnology as well as in gender studies and cultural studies.”
—Cristina Bacchilega, University of Hawai'i

Other titles by Pauline Greenhill

Other titles by Diane Tye