Preparations for the 3rd FF Summer School under way

Preparations for the FF Summer School 1995, the theme of which is “Tradition and Conflicting Identities”, are well under way. The scene of the event is the village of Mekrijärvi, a research station with all the necessary equipment owned by the University of Joensuu by the waters of a clear lake. In the 19th century this beautiful area was famous for its epic rune-singing tradition. Near the research station, and acting as a reminder of the past, is the historical farm where the celebrated singer Simana Sissonen sang epic poetry to the collectors travelling through the area in the middle of last century. Participants in the school will have a chance to see something of Karelian culture and rune-singing at Ilomantsi.


The deadline for applications is past but applications are still trickling in. Applications have so far been received from 26 countries on five continents. Many of them are from North America and Western Europe, but there are also quite a few from the developing countries of Asia and Africa and former Eastern Europe states, which suggests that the theme of the school is an important one to them. The construction of an ethnic identity, the rapid changing of and threats to cultural traditions, and the need to defend the national culture are nowadays major cultural processes. Once again the organisers have received so many deserving applications that the task of selection has been a very difficult one. The selection process still continues at the time of writing but applicants will be notified in the near future.

Work on the course

One of the objectives of the school is to establish and maintain a multicultural dialogue. The participants will therefore be selected from as wide an area as possible and from different parts of the world. The teachers on the course will likewise represent a wide range of views on the chosen theme.

The lectures will deal with the importance of folklore as a means of maintaining and constructing cultural identity, the potential afforded by research for approaching e.g. the construction of an identity based on ethnicity, a minority or nationality, and the conflicts incurred in these processes. The role of different cultural traditions in this process will be examined.

The school will offer a course of intensive study. The mornings will usually be devoted to lectures for all participants and the afternoons to group work. Each group will have its own theme and leader, under whose guidance the group will be preparing even before the start of the course. During the group work each participant may receive personal guidance in his or her own field.

Group 1: Tradition – authority and authenticity

The leader of this group will be Professor Anna-Leena Siikala from the University of Joensuu, who is also the chief organiser of the school. Her special fields include the study of ethnic religions (The Rite Technique of the Siberian Shaman, FFC 220, 1978), the mythologies of different peoples, Kalevala poetry and mythology (Suomalainen šamanismi [Finnish shamanism], Finnish Literature Society, 1992), and folk narratives and narration (Interpreting Oral Narrative, FFC 245, 1990). The group will be debating the use of tradition in the creation of identity, the central concepts being authority and authenticity.

Group 2: Epics and identity – the oral literary spectrum

The epic folklore group will be led by Professor John Miles Foley of the University of Missouri, Columbia. Professor Foley is one of the leading proponents of oral formulaic theory and an expert on the epics of the Balkans and Antiquity. His impressive output includes books on the composition and meanings of oral epics (The Theory of Oral Composition, 1988; Immanent Art, 1991) and presents a comparative perspective on the study of epic (Traditional Oral Epic, 1990). Foley is also the founder member and editor-in-chief of the well-known journal Oral Tradition. At the FF Summer School he will be lecturing on the relationship between the oral epic and identity. The co-leader of the group will be Lauri Harvilahti, Ph.D., of Finland, a scholar who has likewise concentrated on the comparative study of epics and applications of the formulaic theory (Kertovan runon keinot [The Poetic Means of Epic Poetry], Finnish Literature Society, 1992).

Group 3: Gender and power

The group applying the gender perspective and examining the role of gender in culture will be led by Acting Professor Aili Nenola of the University of Turku, Finland. Her particular fields are the Ingrian lament tradition (Studies in Ingrian Laments, FFC 234, 1982) and the meanings of death in culture. She also specialises in women’s studies (Miessydäminen nainen [Male-hearted Woman], Finnish Literature Society, 1986), for which she has acted as the co-ordinator of a national network of post-graduate students in Finland. In addition to leading her group, Professor Nenola will be lecturing on the relationship between gender and cultural identity.

Group 4 : Dialogical aspects of fieldwork

Professor Galit Hasan-Rokem (Jerusalem, Israel) will be acting as both a lecturer and a group leader. The bulk of her extensive output represents study of the cultures and folklore of the Middle East, and of small-scale genres and narratives. Her main works have dealt with the structures and semantics of proverbs (Proverbs in Israeli Folk Narratives: A Structural and Semantic Analysis, FFC 232, 1982) and the contextual aspects of proverbs (Bridges over Foreigness: A Structural, Thematic and Contextual Study of Georgian Proverbs in Israel, 1993). Professor Hasan-Rokem is head of the Institute for the Research of Sephardic and Oriental Jewish Heritage in Jerusalem. She is interested in the development of dialogical fieldwork, which will be one of the themes for group work, and she will be lecturing on the same subject.

Group 5: Ethnography and presentation

The fifth group will be meeting under the leadership of Dr. Barbro Klein (Stockholm University, Sweden), a specialist in performance-oriented folkloristics, the encounter of different cultures and ethnic groups, and the problems of the acquisition and presentation of ethnographic material. Dr. Klein holds a doctorate from the University of Indiana in the United States and has taught at many universities. One of her chief research interests is the role of folklore in a multicultural society (Legends and Folk Beliefs in a Swedish-American Community: A Study of Folklore and Acculturation, 1980), in addition to field work methodology. She co-edited the anthology To Make the World Safe for Diversity: Towards an Understanding of Multi-cultural Societies (1992).


The lecturers on the course will include other scholars of international repute in addition to those acting as group leaders. One of the foremost names in Finnish research is that of Research Professor Lauri Honko (The Academy of Finland), whose prolific output covers subjects ranging from folk religion and narrative (Geisterglaube in Ingermanland I, FFC 1985, 1962) to myths, rituals and folk medicine; from folkloristic genre theory to fieldwork methodology and comparative studies on epics: Religion, Myth, and Folklore in the World’s Epics (ed., 1990). Professor Honko acted in several international organisations and he was one of the editors of the large anthology of Finno-Ugrian oral poetry (The Great Bear, Finnish Literature Society, 1993). Professor Honko will be lecturing at the School on “Traditions in the construction of cultural identity” and “Epic and identity: national, regional, communal, individual”.

The names of the other Finnish and Scandinavian teachers at the School await confirmation. Front-line scholars from other countries have also been invited to lecture on the course. Among them is Professor Hermann Bausinger (Tübingen, Germany), a scholar with an impressive career in the study of identity. He will be lecturing on folklore in the identity process. Professor Bausinger has in his research covered a very wide field taking in the genre problems of folklore (Formen der “Volkspoesie”, 1968), everyday culture and folk culture in a modernising world (Volkskultur in der technischen Welt, 1961; Engl. Folk Culture in a World of Technology, 1990). Of special interest as regards the theme of the Summer School is his study of local identity and the problems of regional culture (Heimat und Identität: Probleme der regionaler Kultur, 1980).

Richard Bauman, Professor of folkloristics and linguistic anthropology at the University of Indiana, likewise enjoys the respect of the international community and has made a major contribution to the development of performance-oriented folkloristics. Studies by him have included various aspects of folklore performance (Verbal Art as Performance, 1977; Story, Performance and Event, 1986), the meanings of silence and discourse, the ethnography of popular festivals, and above all the folklore of the Spanish-speaking world, such as Central America and Mexico (Folklore and Culture on the Texas-Mexican Border, co-editor, 1993). Professor Bauman has acted as editor of many leading scientific journals and is at present the Director of the Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies.

An Asian perspective on the essence of folklore and identity will be introduced by Dr. Niaz Zaman from Bangladesh, an expert on the fairytale tradition of Bangladesh (Animal Tales from Bangladesh, 1985) and the study of Kantha handicrafts (The Art of Kantha Embroidery, 1993). Dr. Niaz has also published articles on the position of women in the developing countries and is co-editor of Infinite Variety: Women in Society and Literature (1994).

Excursions and sessions

As in previous years, the sessions in the school room will be supplemented by extracurricular activities. Interest in the study of Kalevala poetry has experienced a revival in Finland in the past few years. The course will accordingly include a session on Kalevala poetry taking a look at the tradition and performance. There will also be visits to exhibitions on the theme of the Kalevala and Kalevala poetry. A modern view of the study of this poetry is provided by the recently published collection of articles Songs Beyond the Kalevala (Studia Fennica Folkloristica 2, 1994) edited by Anna-Leena Siikala and Sinikka Vakimo.

The course will also include excursions to places of interest and a social programme. Participants may welcome the opportunity to observe the “Petrun praasniekka”, a festival in honour of the patron saint Peter of the Orthodox-Karelian village of Hattuvaara not far from Mekrijärvi. This village has a unique cultural heritage and represents an ethnic minority in Finland.

Waiting for the nightless night

The preparations for the FF Summer School are thus in full swing. The course centre is a quiet but impressive environment for active study. It is appropriate as regards the theme for the 1995 school, since the region has for centuries been on the border between Eastern and Western Europe, acting as a meeting point for conflicting ideologies, cultures and identities. The Finnish countryside and the nightless night of the northern summer may for some also provide a unique opportunity to experience the “conflict” between day and night, the victory of light over darkness.

Welcome to Mekrijärvi!

Pekka Hakamies
Phil.lic., Course Secretary

Sinikka Vakimo
Ph.D., Secr. General

(FFN 9, November 1994: 2-3, 6)

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