Building Community Self-Esteem: Advocating for Culture

Amy Skillman

Academic Director of the M. A. in Cultural Sustainability at Goucher College

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Craig Suite, The Sir Duncan Rice Library

University of Aberdeen

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Why is our heritage so important? How does culture support our communities?


Join us on a folklorist’s journey from scholar to activist to facilitator of change, and back again. Through narratives of migration, motherhood, courage, and food, Skillman uses the transformative power of story to create agency and resilience among refugee and immigrant women in the USA. These stories and more illustrate our responsibility as cultural advocates to help build and foster community self-esteem and well-being.

Amy Skillman is Academic Director of the M.A. in Cultural Sustainability at Goucher College. Skillman works at the intersection of culture and tension, where paying attention to culture can serve to mediate social change. She advises artists and community-based organizations on the implementation of programs that honor and conserve cultural traditions, guides them to potential resources, and develops programs to help build their capacity to sustain these initiatives. Her work has included an oral history/leadership empowerment initiative with immigrant and refugee women in Central Pennsylvania, a Grammy-nominated recording of Old Time fiddlers in Missouri, and a yearlong arts residency with alternative education high school students rooted in the ethnography of their lives. Skillman recently curated a major traveling exhibition that examines the role of folk arts as a catalyst for activism in communities throughout Pennsylvania.


The David Buchan Lecture was launched in 2015 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Elphinstone Institute. The lecture is in memory of the influential ballad and contemporary legend scholar who was also the Institute's first appointed director. This annual event places Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the university calendar and appeals to a wide audience across the university as well as to the general public.