An international training course for the study of folklore and traditional culture will be arranged during July 29 – August 14, 1991 at the University of Turku, Finland. Finland has experience of the creation and development of a folkloristic infrastructure stretching back over 200 years. Recently Finnish folklorists have been involved in starting international training of folklorists in several developing countries on the request of scholars and institutions in these countries. The initiative has been taken by the Nordic Institute of Folklore (NIF), placed in Turku, with the help of folklorists in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Several projects have been launched in collaboration with the Department of Cultural Studies / Folklore and Comparative Religion at Turku University. Fieldwork-oriented training courses have taken place in Tanzania (1976), China (1986), Bangladesh (1987, 1988) and India (1989, 1990). The “Folklore Fellows” are an international network of folklorists instituted by the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Helsinki, the publisher of the renowned monograph series Folklore Fellows’ Communications. One task of this newly reactivated network is to help in the planning and coordination of international scholarly training activities in folkloristics. The Organising Committee includes representatives from six universities in Finland, the Finnish Literature Society and NIF.
The general theme of the course is The Folklore Process, which covers the story of folklore in any society from its discovery and definition, fieldwork and archiving, analysis and theory, to its recycling and application, authenticity and ownership, revival and commercial use, cultural and political functions, its relevance to national, social, ethnic and local identities, and the emergence of emancipatory folklore work in traditional and modern communities and nations. It includes the impact of modern media and political development.
What is the role of the folklorist in this process? What are his skills and contributions? How do we define his code of ethical conduct in research? What is the relationship between the scholarly community and the traditional one? In what directions can or should it be developed? What will be the impact of Unesco’s international recommendation for the safeguarding of traditional culture and folklore in the sphere of folklore theory and practical work in the field of traditions? What is the role of folklore in big and small nations, in developing and post-industrial societies and in the processes of economic integration and different strivings for political or cultural independence in Europe and elsewhere? What is the outlook for folkloristics after 2000?
The deadline for applications was December 31, 1990. The organisers received 207 applications, 90 per cent of them well qualified. They came from 43 countries: 16 from the Nordic countries, 78 from the rest of Europe and the Americas and 113 from Asia and Africa. The quality of the applicants was mostly very high: among them were 68 university teachers (15 professors!), 25 directors of various institutes, museums, and ministry departments, 42 established researchers, 60 post-graduates studying for a Ph.D., and 12 writers, artists etc. Each applicant described in a short essay his/her motives for applying for the course; the essays reflect the varieties of folklore work in different countries, the status of the discipline in the academe and the cultural sector, and the necessity of deepening knowledge on several aspects of the folklore process. The essays also measured the applicant’s fluency in English, which will be the language of the course.
The Organising Committee had to select 30 participants and 30 to be kept in reserve in view of withdrawals. This was not an easy task. One could have filled 5-6 courses with the material available. Research merits, formal university studies, experience in fieldwork and archiving, teaching and administration were among the criteria applied. Attention was also paid to the applicant’s possibility to influence the development of folklore work in his/her country, as well as to the distribution of participants among countries.
One third of the places was given, as announced in advance, to the Nordic countries with one modification, i.e. the inclusion of one Baltic candidate. Thus Denmark got 1, Estonia 1, Finland 3, the Faroe Islands 1, Iceland 2 and Norway 2. The applicants selected from the rest of Europe and North America were nine: Czechoslovakia 1, Hungary 1, Ireland 1, Romania 1, the Soviet Union 2, Turkey 1 and the U.S.A. 2. To the remaining 11 places candidates from South America, Africa and Asia were selected, mainly from the developing countries: Argentina 1, Bangladesh 1, China 1, India 3, Nigeria 2, the Philippines 1, Tanzania 1 and Thailand 1. These figures and countries may change in the case of withdrawals, but in May we hope to be able to publish the final list of participants. Countries which have representatives only on the reserve list are: Bulgaria, Canada, Greece, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Pakistan, Poland, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe.
All applicants have been informed about the result. It is the intention of the Organising Committee and the FF to keep in touch with all those applicants who are interested in obtaining course materials and information about future courses.
The need for this kind of training seems to lie in the developing countries, particularly those with a strong cultural background, and in the eastern and central parts of Europe, whereas the post-industrial North and West either have less interest in global folklore work or already possess proper training.
The distribution of teachers on the course is also international but more Nordic than the distribution of participants. Out of 15 lecturers one is from Denmark, seven are from Finland, one from Germany, one from India, one from Norway, two from Sweden and two from the U.S.A. There are four group leaders who teach practically every day, five guest lecturers who will be speaking mainly on theory (two double lectures each during the second week), and six special lecturers who come in for one topic. In addition specialists on video documentation, photography, sound recording and computerised archiving will be present to conduct practical exercises in three groups into which the participants will be divided. Various kinds of fieldwork exercises are in the plans.
The group leaders are Lauri Honko, Barbro Klein and Anna-Leena Siikala. The fourth group leader is Viveka Rai, from Mangalore University, India. He will rotate in the three groups speaking on special topics and keeping up the perspective of the developing countries.
The five guest lecturers are Roger D. Abrahams (systematic folkloristics, performance theory), Satu Apo (models of narrative analysis), Hermann Bausinger (theory evaluation, cultural identity), Henry Glassie (handicraft, material culture) and Bengt Holbek (comparative method, reality reconstruction).
Special lecturers will enter to deal with aspects of fieldwork (Bente Alver), archiving (Lauri Harvilahti), Hannu-Pekka Huttunen, Irma-Riitta Järvinen), the second life of folklore (Bengt af Klintberg) and emancipatory folklore work (Aili Nenola).
The program contains an emphasis on practical skills in fieldwork and archiving. Theoretical discussions in the morning will be followed by group work and more practical exercises in the afternoon. Special classrooms for computer exercises and video editing are available. In the evenings there will be discussions on research and fieldwork strategies, the ideological and political aspects of folklore use and reports by the participants on their own experiences in research and folklore work. We intend to circulate the program in May.
The building of a sufficient budget for the course takes lots of work. Talent and money do not necessarily reside in the same pocket. That is why there should be means for qualified support when selecting participants. Such support is needed to enable proper participation from the developing countries. Truly global recruitment requires plenty of travel money. To spend that for a week’s stay in Finland would come close to waste. On the other hand, the longer the course, the higher the cost. Staying in the classroom and only talking about fieldwork is hardly satisfactory. That is why fieldtrips are in the plans, but that adds to the cost.
At this experimental stage of the training course the ambition is to keep the individual’s cost as low as possible and to strive toward ideal selection. That is why sponsors are so important. The main burden of the economy is being carried by the Nordic Institute of Folklore in Turku (close to one fourth of the budget). Very substantial contributions are expected from Turku University, the Academy of Finland, Finnida or the Finnish development aid agency, and the Ministry of Education (including the Finnish National Unesco Commission). Minor support will be coming from 2-3 additional sources. Unfortunately, the recession has hit Finland just as the promises given during the past two years of preparation should be translated into cash. The result is much more work and renewed applications, and time is getting short. Yet optimism must prevail.
The course materials
One of the problems is that so few can participate in the course. That is why the course materials will be made available in due course to all interested. The 25-30 subtopics of the theme “The Folklore Process” will be presented on “fact sheets” which specify the main points of the topic in question, reproduce important statements on the subject and contain a selected bibliography. Such lists are expected to free the lecturer and the audience from generalities and let them create more dialogue on some important aspect or problem. Fieldwork can begin in the classroom: it may be important to document most of the discussions in view of future courses.
Most important texts will be distributed as FFSS Preprints in small numbers. Final versions may not emerge in the first course, and the testing of materials will continue in classrooms during regular teaching hours at universities.
The building of the FFSS Library, a small but weighty collection of 300-400 volumes of the most pertinent books plus a collection of articles on the topics of “The Folklore Process” is in the making. It will hardly be complete in this first course, but even in its present shape it will give the participants many ideas and an access to modern research which they may have lacked. Some topics will be covered more thinly and less professionally than others: an interesting result in itself, a portrait of folkloristic interest in relation to various aspects of folklore work.
(FFN 1, April 1991: 4-6)