In Memoriam: Joy Fraser

In Memoriam: Joy Fraser

It is with great sadness that we report that our colleague, Joy Fraser, died on December 17, 2023 in St. John’s Newfoundland. Joy was an assistant professor of Folklore at Mason from 2013-2018 where she was a beloved colleague, mentor, and friend. 

Dr. Joy Fraser was born and raised in Scotland. She received her PhD from the Folklore Program at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her primary research activity focused on cultural representations of Scottishness, especially the Scottish diet. Her book manuscript “Addressing the Haggis: Culture and Contestation in the Making of Scotland’s National Dish” traces the cultural history of haggis as a contested symbol of Scottish nationality from the mid-1700s onwards. She also investigated the violence associated with the custom of Christmas mumming in nineteenth-century Newfoundland, based on records of criminal trials, local press coverage, legislative proceedings, and other archival material. The project examines what these sources reveal about the nature of local mumming practices, the relationships among participants, the motivations underlying the violent incidents, and the responses of the authorities and contemporary commentators. It situates the controversy surrounding Christmas mumming in the context of the turbulent sociopolitical climate of Newfoundland in the mid-1800s. This project culminated in an exhibition at The Rooms Museum in St. John’s Newfoundland. 

Dr. Fraser served as President of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada.

Joy will be remembered for her amazing sense of humor, kind spirit and unfailing support of her students. She was an outstanding classroom teacher and friend. Her former student Kaitlyn Kinney who graduated with a master’s in Folklore from George Mason University, remembers her fondly: “She provided safe spaces for us all to be human and allowed us grace to re-center ourselves when everyday life became difficult. She supported and provided us with thoughtful guidance throughout our folklore projects and life journeys.” 


Joy Fraser with Mason Folklore Program master’s students Kim Stryker and Annie Hallman at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Folklore Society.


Several of her students are organizing a virtual event on Burns Night to honor her memory on Thursday, January 25, at 7 p.m. on Twitch is often used as a public-access TV online with a chat component for viewers to engage. We encourage all that loved her to join in, watch, and connect in the chat. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Kaitlyn at  

Her family has asked that memorial contributions in Joy’s honor to be made to the Memorial University Botanical Garden