Gain a diverse, useful skillset

Our department has been acknowledged nationally as the premier program in both folklore and ethnomusicology, and as the only program in the United States to align these closely-related disciplines.

Training in Folklore and Ethnomusicology gives you a diverse skillset, useful both within academia and the broader world. Geographic in range and scope, study within our department gives you insights into the world’s performative traditions and the layers of meaning and cultural history that produce them and pass them along. When pursuing either a major or minor in Folklore and Ethnomusicology, you can focus on one subject area or combine the two. The minor culminates with a field methods course.

How is folklore understood today?

Folklore covers such subjects and themes as material culture, mythology and legend, foodways, verbal art, dress and costume, and personal narrative. Folklorists study both tradition and innovation, looking at groups and individuals as creators of customs, celebrations, feasts, festivals, stories, jokes, dance, architecture, body art, and theater. Everything expressive and made by humankind is of interest in both its form and function and its ability to transmit meaning over time.

What is ethnomusicology?

Ethnomusicology examines the role of music in human life, studying the relationships between music and culture across and within societies in all parts of the world. Our courses explore every musical tradition, from the African diaspora, East Asia, Europe, the African continent, Latin America and the Caribbean, and various regions and ethnic groups in the United States. Ethnomusicologists listen to musical sounds with an ear to the roles of music in human life, analyzing the relationships between music and culture.

Is it for you?

Students in our department are fascinated with material culture and what it tells us about human beings. They are likely to be interested in many kinds of narratives—mythology, legend, jokes, folktales, and song lyrics. They are intrigued by group traditions surrounding music, food, clothing, transportation, body art, and handcrafts, with a desire to conduct research and preserve or participate in various traditions. They are curious about the way traditions evolve over time.

Folklore and Ethnomusicology opens doors to study in other parts of the world. With its emphasis on performative and expressive culture, it examines the relationships among emotion, memory, and cultural history. Our department attracts students who are enthusiastic about leadership and practicum opportunities, as we offer vibrant opportunities to build bridges across cultures through music, story, food, and the arts.

We are part of the College of Arts + Sciences

A degree in Folklore and Ethnomusicology encompasses the foundational skills of a liberal arts education — vital to a 21st-century career and prized by employers.

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Preparation for a meaningful career

Your degree will provide you with a diverse set of skills and knowledge, preparing you for a variety of work environments. We offer and encourage participation in internships.

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Deciding to double major in Folklore was one of the best decisions I made in my time spent in undergraduate courses at IU. The department and faculty are incredibly interested and passionate about the courses they teach, and it really shows. The freedom folklore courses offer students really helped me discover that it is entirely possible for me to pursue a career that involves topics that I am interested in.

Jake Swiss, B.A. 2011