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Benjamin A. Botkin head and shoulders portrait
Folklorist Benjamin A. Botkin, 1926. Photo courtesy of the Botkin family.

Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series

Through the Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series, the American Folklife Center (AFC) presents distinguished experts speaking about their research and current issues and best practices in folklore, folklife, ethnomusicology, and related fields. Lectures are recorded for the AFC archive and posted on the Library's website. (See below for list of speakers and topics.) The series honors Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975), a pioneering folklorist who headed the Library's Archive of American Folksong from 1942-1945.

2016 Botkin Lectures

Home Canning: Cultural Narratives, Technological Change, and the Status of Traditional Knowledge, Danille Christensen, Department of Religion & Culture, Virginia Tech; 2015 John W. Kluge Fellow.

 Danille Christensen
Danille Christensen
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Noon-1:00 p.m.
Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building, Library of Congress

Shelf-stable canned goods—heat-sterilized fruits, vegetables, and meat preserved in sealed containers—have been part of everyday American life since the mid-nineteenth century. While industrial canning utilized metal tins and mechanized processes, other forms of canning came to rely on glass bottles and the domestic labor of women. But even in the early 1900s the practice had multiple meanings: for some, home canning was old-fashioned, inefficient, or embarrassing; for others, it was a valuable skill to be displayed in public and mobilized in times of need. In today's contexts of economic instability, automated systems, and cultural and environmental change, do-it-yourself canning is experiencing a revival. The process can be a way to recall people and places, to perform authentic or esoteric taste, and to enact abstract values such as stewardship or self-sufficiency. In the twenty-first century, more people are canning their own food, and more are writing about it.

However, the histories of canning that crop up in everything from food magazines to microbiology textbooks have been strikingly similar: they invariably celebrate a single "father of canning"—a man depicted as a chef and/or scientist motivated by military concerns—and consistently warn against relying on "grandma's" methods. Drawing on filmstrips, posters, cartoons, newspaper captions, canning manuals, mail-order catalogs, and other sources, Danille Christensen will offer examples that complicate this narrative and explore how technological changes contributed to the dismissal or even demonization of women’s experience-based domestic knowledge.

Danille Elise Christensen received her PhD in Folklore from Indiana University and is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion & Culture at Virginia Tech. Her work focuses on the ways people shape everyday speech, action, and objects as they seek to influence and persuade others. Especially interested in gendered domestic labor as a site of commentary and display, she is completing the book Freedom from Want: Home Canning in the American Imagination. She is a 2015 John W. Kluge Fellow.

This event is co-sponsored with the John W. Kluge Center.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or

Botkin Lecture Series Past Events Archive

Includes descriptions of each lecture, photos, and informational essays from the event flyers. Links to webcasts of lectures are included as available.

2015 Lecture Series

2014 Lecture Series

2013 Lecture Series

2012 Lecture Series

2011 Lecture Series

2010 Lecture Series

2009 Lecture Series

2008 Lecture Series

2007 Lecture Series

2006 Lecture Series

2005 Lecture Series

2004 Lecture Series


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   June 9, 2016
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