To Explain Tradition

  • Elliott Oring California State University, Los Angeles


Tradition has been claimed to be a keyword in the folklore lexicon. Yet the word has not proved central to the thinking of many folklorists. More often, the term is simply used to mark territory. By characterizing certain songs, tales, dances, or customs as traditions, such expressions and behaviors are declared to be part of the discipline’s proper subject. But the term is usually theoretically empty. It is rarely defined, and it raises no critical questions. In this essay, tradition is defined, the critical questions evoked by this definition are specified, and some of the ways that folklorists might go about answering these questions are delineated.
How to Cite
ORING, Elliott. To Explain Tradition. Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics, [S.l.], v. 15, n. 2, p. 1–18, dec. 2021. ISSN 2228-0987. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 26 mar. 2023.