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Syracuse University faculty member receives national folklore prize

October 27, 2008

Judy Holmes
(315) 443-2201

Judy Holmes

Felicia McMahon, research associate professor in the Department of Anthropology in Syracuse University's Maxwell School and instructor in The Renée Crown University Honors Program, has been awarded the 2008 Chicago Folklore Prize by the American Folklore Society for her book "Not Just Child's Play: Emerging Tradition and the Lost Boys of Sudan" (University Press of Mississippi, 2007).

Not Just Childs PlayThe Chicago Folklore Prize is one of six major prizes presented annually by the American Folklore Society to recognize outstanding achievement in the field of folklore. First awarded in 1928, the prize, presented jointly with the University of Chicago, is the oldest international award recognizing excellence in folklore scholarship; it is awarded to author(s) of the best book-length work of folklore scholarship for the year.

McMahon's book is a fully theorized first-person narrative by a folklorist who, mindful of the cultural risks involved, has worked for several years with members of a culturally endangered group, Sudanese DiDinga war refugees who relocated to the United States-"The Lost Boys." Though now grown, the Lost Boys were never properly initiated into manhood according to tribal custom and so are caught in a state of cultural childhood. McMahon's work with the group in western New York has been in large measure devoted to helping the refugees encompass that loss through recovery of remembered tribal dance and ritual enacted in public performances.

The American Folklore Society is an association of people who study and communicate knowledge about folklore throughout the world. The society's more than 2,200 members and subscribers are scholars, teachers and libraries at colleges and universities; professionals in arts and cultural organizations; and community members involved in folklore work. Further information about the society is available at

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