An international training course for the study of folklore and traditional culture will be held on August 2-14, 1993 at Turku University, Finland. The course is aimed at the training of scholars, the university teachers and archivists in folklore institutions and elsewhere. The course now being planned can draw on some experience from the first course held in Turku in 1991. The general theme of the course was “The Folklore Process”. This theme tended towards a comprehensive analysis of the role that expressions of folklore can play in the life of both traditional and modern communities.
This approach takes into account the entire life-history of folklore in any society from its discovery and definition, fieldwork and archiving, analysis and conservation, to its “second life”: recycling and application, authenticity and ownership, revival and commercial use, cultural and political functions, to its relevance to national, social, ethnic and local identities, and to the emergence of emancipatory folklore work in traditional and modern communities, regions and nations. The main topic, “The Folklore Process”, proved its relevance and could well be maintained in the future. On the other hand, it is so broad that the Organising Committee is willing to focus on some aspect of it to give more consistency and integration to the lectures. It has been suggested that the next course could be entitled:
Tradition and Renewal in the Folklore Process. International training course in the study of folklore and traditional culture.
This title would focus on continuity and change in living traditions. Much of folklore seems to retain its pattern and content for fairly long periods of time. On closer inspection, however, it is constant variation, new interpretation and skilful application to new situations that give folklore its flexibility and capability to survive. Copying is relatively rare in folklore performance since much of it is produced by composition-in-performance techniques without any formal text or master version. Even if the external form of certain folklore items does not seem to change much, the meanings attached to their various performances vary according to the situation and audience. Thus the actual meanings and messages that folklore conveys can be elucidated only by good fieldwork in real contexts of folkloric phenomena.
This view has practical consequences as to the methodology and importance of fieldwork in close cooperation with the informants and performers in the spirit of dialogical anthropology. It also stresses the value of comprehensive or multiple collecting of data. The problem of “authenticity” is viewed in a new light: more tolerance must be shown toward innovations and creations that seemingly lack obvious sources or origins in earlier traditions. The message of new folkloric forms, be they urban, regional, ethnic or almost purely individual, must be documented and decoded.
The practical aims of the course
The nature of training is planned to be global in the sense that both teachers and participants will be selected from institutions in all parts of the world. Its focus is thus not Finland but all cultures from which the participants come. The practical aims are threefold:
(1) to offer new views in studying transformation processes of folklore, its use, interpretations and application to changing situations. Special attention is paid to discussion of the problems of research presented by participants.
(2) to create a global forum for debate on the theoretical premises of folklore work. Presently intellectual exchange takes place mainly within the European-North American scholarly community and the role of scholars from the East and the developing countries has not gained the visibility it deserves. A debate which does not aim at western hegemony in the theoretical field but encourages the subdued voices to express themselves on priorities and possibilities is very much needed.
(3) to provide training in modern documentation and archiving techniques by experts in interview and observation methods, photography, audiotaping, videotaping, cataloguing of materials and computerised archiving. The participants will be provided with technical aids which they can take to their working environment for further experimentation and application. The aim is to raise the level of professionality in everyday folklore work.
The need to create systematic folklore work has been noticed in the Third World countries building their own cultural capital. More recently, the East and Central European former socialist states have shown great interest in participating in internationally oriented training courses of the West.
All parties can learn from each other. Both European and Asian or African countries have many lessons to give in the handling of folklore materials as an element in the definition of cultural, social, ethnic or national identity. During the past two decades the U.S.A. has introduced a concept of full-time folklorists in the service of local or state interests. Our course plans to review the global situation with the help of participants. Another resource are the more personal contacts between scholars which the course will bring about. Such contacts have more than once led to bilateral or multilateral folklore projects which reach beyond the often narrow confines of local or even national folklore work.
Emphasis on group work
The length of the course, which will take place at Turku Christian Institute, will be 12 days. The program includes lectures by well-known folklorists (to be announced in the August issue of FF Network) on issues of folklore theory and methodology, fieldwork, archiving, and applied folklore work. The lectures are in the morning, but afternoons are devoted to group work and discussion. For this part of the program a number of topics of a more specific nature have been tentatively selected, namely,
Group 1: Performance and meaning,
Group 2: Rituals and women’s studies,
Group 3: History, folklore, and local identity,
Group 4: Documentation techniques: rapport and ethics,
Group 5: (open).
It will be the task of the group leader to introduce the general topic in each group, but it will be the joint task of the group to plan the discussion program in detail. At this point themes and research problems introduced by the participants will carry special weight. Since much of the teaching takes places through discussion, a good command of English is expected from all participants. The participants will be divided into five teams which will carry out exercises in classroom and field situations. The focus will be partly on the theoretical premises of the research process, partly on practical skills such as field techniques, video and computerised cataloguing. Group work will be emphasised, but there will also be individual assignments. The participants will get instruction in using a system of cataloguing (COLLCARD) and a program in computerised archiving (ABBA) which they are invited to experiment with in their own work. No previous experience with the technical apparatus to be used on the course will be required.
Every participant will receive a certificate from the course and associate membership of the Folklore Fellows. This will provide a chance to follow future developments in scholarly training and to learn about publications, etc. In other words, contacts with participants will continue after the course.
– – –
Welcome to Turku in 1993!
On behalf of the Organising Committee FFSS93
Anna-Leena Siikala (Chair)
(FFN 4, May 1992: 2-3)