Are Beliefs Real? Answers from the Field

Brandon Barker (Indiana University Bloomington)

Adams, Tennessee is legendary home to the Bell Witch, who plagued the area from 1817 to 1820. But do locals really believe? And is that the question? In the early 1970s, Indiana University graduate student Josephine Lombardo interviewed seventeen people in Adams about their Bell Witch beliefs. Since 2015, my persistent fieldwork has produced two dozen additional interviews. This talk pulls from the Lombardo recordings and my recent findings to foreground interdisciplinary insights that arise from longitudinal, generational attention to folkloric texts, in situ. From Adams, I share localized answers to an intractable philosophical, scientific, and folkloristic question — What is the real nature of belief?

Part of 06-06 Phases of Fieldwork, Friday, November 03, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm