Folklorist, Grammy nominee to lead UL’s Center for Louisiana Studies 

Posted at 11:30 AM, Jun 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-06 12:30:52-04

Dr. Joshua Caffery is the new director of the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Caffery, a published folklorist, poet, and Grammy-nominated musician and producer will begin his new position on July 1. He succeeds Dr. Michael Martin, the center’s director since 2011.

“I’m thrilled to be joining an incredibly talented team at the Center for Louisiana Studies,” Caffery said. “It will be an honor to build on Michael’s work, and to engage with the center’s cultural mission at a time when the importance of our area’s cultural resources is so poignantly clear.”

A native of the St. Mary Parish community of Irish Bend, outside Franklin, Louisiana, Caffery earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English and folklore from UL. He completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies at LSU in Baton Rouge.

Caffery held the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies at the Library of Congress in 2013.

Lomax was a noted ethnomusicologist. The Cajun and Creole music he documented in Great Depression-era Louisiana was explored in Caffery’s “Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Collection.”

The book, which LSU Press published in 2013, inspired a four-CD box set produced by Caffery and musician Joel Savoy, “I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax in the Evangeline Country.” It was nominated in the Best Regional Roots Music Album category at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

The compilation also earned Caffery and Savoy recognition closer to home. The Community Foundation of Acadiana named the pair among the inaugural recipients of its Icon Arts and Cultural Awards in 2017.

The Grammy nomination for the Lomax box set was Caffery’s second. He played mandolin, and electric and acoustic guitars on Feufollet’s “En Couleurs.” The album also featured “À Saint-Martin,” a song Caffery wrote. It earned a song of the year nomination from the Cajun French Music Association.

“En Couleurs” received a 2010 Grammy nomination in the Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album category.

In addition, Caffery was a founding member of the Red Stick Ramblers, a Cajun and Western swing band.

He taught in UL’s Department of English while pursuing his doctorate. He was also chair of the English Department at the Episcopal School of Acadiana in Cade; a visiting assistant professor of folklore at Indiana University, Bloomington; and a brand strategist and researcher at Stuller Inc. in Lafayette.

Caffery is a published poet. LSU Press released his “In the Creole Twilight: Poems and Songs from Louisiana Folklore,” a collection of poems inspired by Louisiana myth, legend and oral history, in 2015.

“Josh brings a unique combination of talents to this position,” said Dr. Jordan Kellman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, which oversees the Center for Louisiana Studies.

“His musical experience, folklore training, literary production and corporate experience make him ideally suited to lead the center, and to help it maintain and expand its reputation as the premier organization dedicated to the stewardship of the state’s culture and heritage.”

Founded in 1973, the center includes the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore, a repository of field recordings, oral histories, photographs and other materials.

The center also administers the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

Martin will return to the University’s Department of History, Geography and Philosophy, where he is a professor of history.

Kellman called Martin’s leadership of the center “transformative.”

“Over the past seven years, the center has raised its public profile, increased its programming, and diversified and deepened its research portfolio. Michael also helped build the quality and reputation of the UL Lafayette Press, which won numerous awards under his direction.”