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Mumming with the Neighbors in West Tyrone

Ray Cashman
Journal of Folklore Research
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Jan. - Apr., 2000), pp. 73-84
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3814666
Page Count: 12
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Mumming with the Neighbors in West Tyrone
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Abstract

While conducting fieldwork on commemoration and collective memory in Northern Ireland, I was invited by my neighbors to join their Christmas mumming group. That experience led to this short, informal piece, which offers insights-from my perspective as a newly initiated mummer-into the motivations, group dynamics, and improvisational play of a contemporary mumming group. By describing how the group assembled and practiced, the essay touches on how this tradition is transmitted from veterans to new recruits. By recalling specific performances, the piece describes the contexts in which mumming is performed today. As a result of my mumming experience, I relaxed my initial compulsion to document folklore as a thing and came to appreciate being part of folklore as a process. Although folk drama was not the primary focus of my fieldwork, my experience as a mummer was foundational in my relationships with new neighbors and to my understanding of my role as a fieldworker. Thus, this "encounter with folklore" also allows for some reflection on fieldwork and methodology.

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