Dan Ben-Amos

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Dan Ben-Amos (born September 3, 1934) is a folklorist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, where he holds the Graduate Program Chair for the Department of Folklore and Folklife.[1]


Ben-Amos was born in Israel and attended Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he initially majored in Biblical studies and English literature. During his sophomore year, dissatisfied with his major, he switched to pursue a degree in Hebrew literature with an interest in folklore. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1961. While pursuing his degree, Ben-Amos worked with Professor Dov Noy, a director of the Hebrew University Folklore Center, to collect Israeli folklore. Under advice from Professor Dov Noy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Amos continued his education in the United States at Indiana University, Bloomington, which at that time was the only folklore Ph.D. granting institution in the United States. Although originally turned-off by the town of Bloomington, he decided to stay, and he received his M.A. in 1964 and Ph.D. in 1967 in folklore. At Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bloomington, Ben-Amos was trained in the comparatist tradition.

Towards the end of his education and beginning of his career, Ben-Amos, along with other young folklorists, Roger Abrahams and Richard Bauman, became affectionately labeled by Richard Dorson, prominent folklorist and teacher of Ben-Amos, as the Young Turks.[2] The Young Turks broke with traditional perspectives of folkloristics, which focus on the text and its content. Collectively, they focused on context in an effort to better understand folklore and the way people use folklore. Ben-Amos in his influential essay, “Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context,” promoted a new way of defining folklore based on its context. With its focus on context, Ben-Amos’s work helped to usher in a new performance based perceptive in the field of folkloristics.

Professional career[edit]

His first teaching position was at the University of California, Los Angeles, which he held from 1966-67 as Assistant Professor of Anthropology. In 1967, he began teaching at The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, serving as an assistant professor for three years and associate professor for seven. He became Professor of Folklore and Folklife in 1977, holding the title for twenty-two years. His current position at the University of Pennsylvania is Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Folklore, and he serves as Chair of the Graduate Program in Folklore and Folklife.

Ben-Amos’s scholarly interests include Jewish folklore, African folklore, humor, the history of folklore, and structural analysis.

Ben-Amos served on the executive board of the American Folklore Society from 1977 to 1980. He was an associate editor from 1981 to 1984 and book editor from 1988 to 1990 of the Journal of American Folklore. He also serves as the general editor to the Indiana Press series Folklore in Translation.


  1. ^ IU Folklore Institute, 1987. Indiana University Finding Aids, Indiana University. 17 March 2010. [1]
  2. ^ Ben-Amos, Dan. “The Historical Folklore of Richard M. Dorson.” Journal of Folklore Research 26.1 (1989): 51-60.

External links[edit]