FFC 287

Anna-Leena Siikala and Jukka Siikala:
Return to Culture. Oral Tradition and Society in the Southern Cook Islands. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Fennica). 2005. 327 pp.

ISBN 951-41-0965-1 (hardback)
ISBN 951-41-0966-X (paperback)

34 euros (hardback)
29 euros (paperback)

THEORETICAL DISCUSSIONS ON CULTURE and folklore have bifurcated into two major directions. Individualistic interpretations have emphasised performance and culture as being a product of individual strategic choices. Put in a wider social context culture has been reduced to hegemonic tradition in service of the interests of the elites. The analysis of Polynesian cultural practices in this volume reassesses the importance of theoretical understanding of culture which enables an analytic understanding of social action, political structure, narrative practices and thus the culturally constituted life-world of the people.
Pacific oral tradition is not a free-floating and easily circulating “folklore”, but an integral part of social life with direct political consequences. It has not been detached from social life and therefore it is not easily interpretable without a thorough knowledge of the whole cultural system. By analysing a wide range of cultural materials this volume argues strongly for the notion of culture as ordering order which systematically determines the significance of differences.

ANNA-LEENA SIIKALA is Professor of Folklore Studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Her studies have been concerned with shamanism, mythology and oral narrating. She has carried out fieldwork in Finland, the Cook Islands, among the Siberian Khanty and other Finno-Ugrian peoples of Russia. Her earlier works include The Rite Technique of the Siberian Shaman (FFC 220, 1978), Studies in Shamanism (Ethnologia Uralica 1992, 1998) with Mihály Hoppál, Interpreting Oral Narrative (FFC 245, 1990) and Mythic Images and Shamanism. A Perspective on Kalevala Poetry (FFC 280, 2002).

JUKKA SIIKALA is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Helsinki in Finland. He has studied the colonial history and culture of the Pacific and he has done extensive fieldwork in the Cook Islands during the last 20 years. His publications include Cult and Conflict in Tropical Polynesia (FFC 233, 1982) and ‘Akatokamanava: Myth, History and Society in the Southern Cook Islands (The Polynesian Society 1991).

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