Carl Lindahl is a folklorist, Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, fellow of the American Folklore Society and a humanitarian. Originally from Chicago, Lindahl received his BA in English literature and medieval studies at Harvard University. It was during his freshman year at Harvard that he took a folklore course, Oral and Early Literature taught by Albert Lord, which first sparked his interest in folklore. He would later take a professor's suggestion to attend Indiana University, which has one of the only and oldest programs in folklore, earning both an MA and Ph.D. in Folklore.
Soon after he accepted his first job, as an English professor at the University of Houston. Besides teaching English courses there, he is also one of the only teachers at UH who teaches folklore.
What he does: Lindahl is now a recognized authority in folk narrative, with specializations in American folktale, Cajun and Appalachian folk culture and medieval folklore.
He is also author of several books including his first book, Earnest Games: Folkloric Patterns in the Canterbury Tales and Cajun Mardi Gras Masks, which he co-authored with Carolyn Ware. He's also co-editor of Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, a book on Cajun culture, which was named the Louisiana Humanities Book of the Year.
In 2005 he and fellow folklorist Pat Jasper, founded Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston [SKRH], the world's first project in which disaster survivors "have taken the lead in documenting their own disaster." Lindahl says his ultimate goal for the project has been to give the survivors of Katrina a voice by giving them the opportunity to provide aid for themselves as well as fellow survivors so that they would no longer be looked at as victims, but as survivors.
"These survivors want to do more. It's better for them to do more. They are the people best equipped to help each other and they need to help each other. "
Why he likes it: He loves folklore. He loves doing fieldwork. He says that the soul of folklore is fieldwork. He was in Scotland for a while studying Scottish narrative and tries to get back there every summer to continue his studies.
What inspires him: "The fact that I think there is so much artistry and creativity that lives offstage as it were, lives in every day life and I spend most of my career listening to people tell these amazing complex stories and do these amazingly creative things that I consider absolutely major art and seeing these individuals do these things and being able to write about them and talk about them in ways that give other people exposure to an understanding of the kind of artistry they can create offstage is the really important thing that's really inspirational."
If not this, then what: "I think I'd be very unhappy." He says he enjoys teaching literature, but if he weren't doing that he would want to get involved in some social cause.
"I think everybody wants to do something helpful to humanity. Since I've been working on the Katrina project not only am I seeing these individuals tell their stories in really artful and important ways, but I've seen that it has also had this incredibly helpful effect on them."
If not here, then where: "I love Chicago where I come from. I love the Appalachians. I love Southern Louisiana, I love Scotland." But it's hard for him to imagine not living in Houston...at least part of the time. He says he loves the weather and the people here.
What's next: He has been working on a grant proposal, which will implement policies that allow survivors to have a greater hand in their recovery. He has been putting this together along with ethnographers, public health and trauma specialists, anthropologists and other folklorists from five different countries.
"We're also trying to involve Haiti, Italy and Sierra Leone."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
And in November, he will be flown to Japan where he will be participating in a conference on how to respond to disasters. Authorities who had read some of his work on Katrina are interested in applying a similar project there for Japanese tsunami survivors.
Other than that he's been doing some work on folk culture in the Appalachian Mountains and is working on finishing up a book on folktales in the Mountains.
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer Tom Stell, actor, writer, director Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician Matthew Detrick, classical musician Travis Ammons, filmmaker Florence Garvey, actress Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist JoDee Engle, dancer David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor Jessica Janes, actress and musician Dennis Draper, actor and director Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright