Tok Thompson

Associate Professor (Teaching) of Anthropology and Communication

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-5195
Office: STO 100

Curriculum Vitae
Faculty Profile on Departmental Website
The Master of Liberal Studies program
Cultural Analysis
Folklore at USC
Western Folklore: The Journal of the Western States Folklore Society

Biographical Sketch

Tok Thompson was born and raised in rural Alaska. At the age of 17, he began attending Harvard College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. In 1999 he received a Master’s degree in Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley, and three years later received a PhD in Anthropology from the same institution, all the while studying under the late great folklorist Alan Dundes. After receiving his PhD, Tok engaged in a two-year postdoctoral position with the Centre for Irish-Scottish Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, where he helped launch a new M.Phil. in Translation Studies. He also researched Irish language traditions in County Fermanagh on behalf of the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and the District Council of Fermanagh. In the Fall of 2006, Tok came to USC, where he has been teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in folklore and related topics. Additionally, he has taught folklore as a visiting professor at universities in Northern Ireland, Iceland, and most recently, Ethiopia.


Ph.D. Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 2002
M.A. Folklore, University of California, Berkeley, 1999
A.B. Anthropology, Harvard College, 1988

Postdoctoral Training

Postdoctoral Researcher, Trinity College, Dublin University, Ireland, 2004-2005   
Postdoctoral Researcher, Trinity College, Dublin University, 2003-2004   

Description of Research

Research Keywords

Folklore, Popular Culture, Translation Studies, Heritage, Minority Languages, the Internet

Research Specialties

Folklore, Popular Culture, Translation Studies, Heritage, Minority Languages, The Internet.



Thompson, T. F. (2006). Ireland's Pre-Celtic Archaeological and Anthropological Heritage. New York and Toronto: Edwin Mellen Press.
Thompson, Tok Freeland (Ed.). (2006). The Past in the Present: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Italy: Edit Press.

Book Chapter

Thompson, T. F. (2013). Trajectories of Tradition: Following Tradition into a New Epoch of Human Culture. in Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction Edited by Trevor J. Blank. Utah State University Press: Logan.45-69. University of Utah Press.
Thompson, T. F. (2012). "Netizens, Revolutionaries, and the Inalienable Right to the Internet. In Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction Edited by Trevor J. Blank. Utah State University Press: Logan.45-69. Folklore and the Internet, Volume 2.
Thompson, T. F. (2012). The Spiritual Life of the Seite and the Implied Cosmological View of the Traditional Sámi. In News From The Other Worlds. Merrill Kaplan and Timothy R. Tangherlini, eds. Pinehurst Press. Festschrift for John Lindow

Book Review

Thompson, T. F. (2012). Review of In The Blood: Cape Breton Conversations on Culture. Western Folklore.
Thompson, T. F. (2009). Review of: Sedna: The Sea Woman in Inuit Shamanism and Art in the Eastern Arctic by Frederic Laugrand and Jarich Oosten. Journal of Folklore Research..

Journal Article

Thompson, T. F. (2011). Beatboxing, Mashups, and More: Folk Music for the 21st Century. Western Folklore.
Thompson, T. F. (2010). The Ape That Captured Time: Folklore, Narrative, and the Human-Animal Divide. Western Folklore.
Thompson, T. F. (2009). Getting Ahead in Ethiopia: Amharic Proverbs about Wealth. Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship. Vol. 26, pp. 367-386.
Thompson, T. F. (2008). Gone Native: Immigrants, Natives, and the Quest for the Real Alaskan. Journal of Intercultural Studies.
Thompson, T. F. (2007). Something Fishy Going On: An Analysis of the Role of Fish in American Folk Speech. Columbia Journal of American Studies. Vol. 8, pp. 111-122.

New Courses Developed

LBST 599: Tradition and Modernity: A focus on Ireland, MLS/MPW, This course aims to sharpen students’ understanding of the continuing interplays between tradition and novelty; between locale and globalization; and between heritage and postmodernity. Ireland makes a particularly compelling case study. Located on the periphery of Europe, it has sometimes been called "the first colony", as it was controlled directly by England for some 800 years before gaining independence in 1926. Long identified as a country steeped in tradition, Ireland has maintained, to varying degrees, its Gaelic language, its folk music, and its folklore. Nevertheless, the last few years have witnessed an upheaval in the society, as it transformed in just a few short years from an impoverished agricultural nation to one of the richest per capita in the world. We will examine what these processes have meant for the idea of tradition in Ireland, highlighting the differences within the country, from cosmopolitan Dublin to rural Gaelic-speaking farming areas., 2009-2010   
Ghost Stories: Throughout Time and Around the World, ARLT-100 course, GE Program, Ghosts have played a large role in storytelling around the world, appearing as central characters in much of folklore, literature, and popular culture. Ghost stories invite discussions of the soul, and the afterlife, and appear in different forms in various cultures throughout time and around the world. Western classics (Shakespeare's Hamlet, Henry James' 'The Turn of the Screw', Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, etc) make frequent use of ghost stories, as does literature from many civilizations (the famous Japanese Tale of the Genji, for example). Ghost stories have played an important role in other media, too, including films, songs, video games, and more. In this class we will examine ghost stories in folklore, literature, and popular culture in order to understand this genre's particular functions, lying as it does at the nexus of belief and entertainment., 2008-2009   
MLS512 Languages in a Globalizing World, MLS, This course explores relationships between language and geopolitical change, endangered and minority languages, and the public policy implications of multilingualism and multiculturalism. We investigate the role of language in a world in which English has become the global lingua franca for commerce, government, science and technology., 2007-2008   
ARLT 100. Bookends of Literature: Folklore and Popular Culture, General Education, Literature is commonly thought of as texts, the printed word. However, other forms besides printed words are also often considered as literature. This course will look at two of these other forms, folklore and popular culture, and show their relationship to printed literature., 2006-2007   
ARLT 100. In Their Own Words: North American Natives, General Education, This course will survey the wide realm of Native North American literature, from the traditional tales and mythologies, to authored works, and onto movies and texts on the internet. We will read various texts produced by Native Americans in their own words to show the breadth and vibrancy of the literature, and we will locate these in their respective realms of cultural production. This course will also aim to sharpen the students' understanding of the role of folklore collection, translation, and Native languages, in shaping the texts, as well as the Native Americans historical, cultural, and political positions, and should serve as an introduction to postcolonial theoretical approaches in studying world cultures., 2006-2007   
MLS 500 Introduction to Liberal Studies, MLS, This course aims to introduce new graduate students to the essential works, methods, and contours of advanced liberal studies., 2006-2007   

Teaching Innovations and Multimedia Teaching

New Multimedia Folklore Archives for student collections, 2008-2009   

Honors and Awards

Phi Kappa Phi , Spring 2010   

Service to the University


Member, Faculty Council, 2010-  
Member, Undergraduate Education Caucus, Faculty Council, 2010-  

Media, Alumni, and Community Relations

Appearances on 4 nationally-televised shows on Folklore topics, airing on the History and Discovery channels, 2011-2012   

Other Service to the University

Assisting USC Librarian Marje Schuetze-Coburn,Senior Associate Dean, in organizing the Alan Dundes Folklore Collection; also assisting in the acquisition of further sets of donations for this collection (two further sets donated thus far)., 2011-  
Faculty Sponsor, Native American Studies Workshop, 2010-  
Faculty Sponsor: An Cumann Eireannach/ Irish Club, 2010-  
Faculty may update their profile by visiting
  • Master of Liberal Studies
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Mark Taper Hall, THH 355
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0355