“Don’t Lie to Us—We’re From Detroit…” an Ethnographic Study of the Moth Detroit StorySLAM

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The Moth Detroit StorySLAM is one of many storytelling events staged in urban bar environments. Unlike the aging audiences at the National Storytelling Festival and similar festivals, the Detroit StorySLAM consistently yields capacity crowds of college students and young professionals. Participants were informally interviewed during the September, October, and November slams of 2010 and during the January 2011 slam. In addition to conducting these interviews, the researcher was a participant-observer— throwing her name into the hat and being twice called to the stage. Until now, questions about the nature and meaning of storytelling have been largely considered from the storyteller’s perspective, or else from the perspective of the critical eye fixed upon the storyteller. By redirecting those questions to the listeners, this study reveals the ethos of the Detroit Moth participants—a strongly stated preference for raw authenticity over polished performances, individual truths over archetypal forms .