VI International Training Course for the Study of Folklore and Traditional Culture

The VI international training course was originally to have been held in August 2001 but has had to be postponed for a year due to unforeseen structural damage at the University of Helsinki. The University’s Biological Research Station at Lammi has now been reserved for the School from June 17 to 31, 2002. As in previous years the 2002 Folklore Fellows’ Summer School will be addressing the theory and methodology of folklore and will be designed for researchers, postgraduate students, university lecturers and persons working in folklore archives. The theme of the school, “Memory, Recollection and Creativity”, points to the significance of oral tradition in forming images of the past and unleashing creativity. Special attention will be paid to the use of oral tradition in the ethnic processes of multi-ethnic communities and to the research ethics of folkloristics.

Focus on intercultural dialogue

The arrangements at Lammi will be in the hands of a committee representing the departments of folkloristics at the various Finnish universities chaired by Academy Professor Anna-Leena Siikala. She will be assisted by the Secretary General of the FFSS, Professor Lauri Harvilahti and the Course Secretary Pauliina Latvala, MA, both from the University of Helsinki. Any questions about the sixth FFSS should be addressed to Ms Latvala at the Institute for Cultural Research /Folkloristics, P.O. Box 59, 00014 UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI, Finland, fax: +358 9 19122970 or e-mail:

Folklore research in Europe has to a great extent tended to concentrate on the scholar’s own language and cultural area. In order to avoid this somewhat introvert approach, a need has nevertheless been felt for international dialogue of a more profound nature than the occasional encounters at congresses. The FFSS courses seek to engender true intercultural dialogue by drawing participants from all continents and as many cultural regions as possible. Many applications were received for the VI School now postponed until summer 2002. The standard of the applications was unfailingly high and they reflected a wide range of interest in the problems surrounding the collection, study and recording of folklore. Unlike many of the established disciplines in the humanities, folkloristics would appear to be in a state of expansion and gaining a foothold over an increasingly wide geographical area. Applications have thus been received from such countries as Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, Estonia, India, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Tanzania, Uganda, the UK and the United States, in addition to the Nordic countries.

Unfortunately only 30 applicants could be accepted for the course and, as in previous years, the criterion for selection was the standard of scholarship. Allowance was also made for each applicant’s need for training and the regional distribution of trainees.

All the participants must have a good command of English, since this is the language of the Folklore Fellows’ Summer School. There will be Finnish postgraduate students acting as assistants and, schedule permitting, attending the lectures and joining in the workshops in addition to the participants proper.


The main topic of the course is the significance of folklore as the art of memory, its recollection and reinvention in performance. The focal role of folklore, as the symbol capital of the ethnic processes characteristic of the increasingly global world of today and as the building materials of local cultures, is still a major issue from the point of view of folkloristics. Unesco, for example, has underlined the importance of research into cultural diversity and creativity. In order to understand the use of tradition in contemporary culture, the folklorist must be familiar with the traditional forms of folklore. The continuity of traditions, cultural values and practices founded on them, the poetic language of folklore, and the problems of performing and reproducing tradition thus remain in the foreground of research.

A command of the classic questions of folkloristics and of the materials in the archives lays firm foundations for innovative research and the cultivation of views and interpretations that may be sophisticated in their novelty. On the other hand, the vistas afforded by fieldwork on the life of folklore reveal the tremendous change taking place in culture at this very moment amid the myriad developments brought about by economics, politics and communications. Contrary to the predictions made by the sociologists and others a few years ago, traditions are showing no sign of disappearing. Rather, they are providing the substance for new cultural phenomena. We may in fact well ask where oral tradition and folklore stand in the changing world of today. What sort of existence does it lead in the growing field of intercultural communication or multicultural and multilingual environments?

In addition to lectures focusing on the theory and methods of folklore studies, the Summer School will concentrate on the means and substance provided by folklore for the evaluation and transmission of individual and common experiences. Special attention will be paid to the creation of the self and the inventiveness of tradition in the shifting contexts of multicultural and multilingual localities. A further topic for discussion will be the cultural division of labour. This concept underlines the systematic differences in the competence and uses of folklore in society.

Awareness of the significance of folklore in the life of individuals, micro-communities and ethnic groups faces research with certain ethical challenges. Scholars in the Nordic countries have in the past few years been drawing special attention to the ethics of folklore. Hence the FF Summer School held in Turku in 1999 included a workshop devoted specifically to folkloristic ethics. This debate will continue at Lammi.


The Summer School faculty will consist of eminent folklorists of international renown representing different countries and research traditions. The course will be divided into theoretical lectures on a theme and four workshops each addressing participants’ own research problems in addition to the general topics.

The themes to be addressed by the workshops are 1) Epics and Creativity, 2) Dialogues between Local and Global, 3) Narrated and Relived Histories, and 4) Ethics and Problems of Fieldwork. These themes have been chosen with a view to giving the main theme greater depth. The workshop topics can be interpreted loosely in order to give each participant a chance to make his/her views heard in the discussions. In order to foster intellectual exchange, each participant will give a paper on the state of research in his/her own country and his/her particular research topic. Participants are advised to prepare for this beforehand. Each workshop will be led by two well-known folklorists and will cover both participants’ own research problems and the writing of a joint report based on the literature reserved for the course.

Lammi Biological Research Station

Lammi Biological Research Station is located amid verdant countryside in the province of Häme in southern Finland. It has modern lecture halls and seminar rooms, computers and Internet connections. The FF Summer School in 1997 proved that Lammi is a good venue for a folkloristic training course. The concentrated work sessions can be interspersed with a variety of leisure activities. The station is surrounded by wild forest with paths for walking and jogging, and the nearby lakes afford opportunities for boating and swimming. The Finnish sauna is likewise part of the programme at Lammi seminars. There will also be an excursion to a nearby village to study the local culture. Lammi further specialises in linen handicrafts made from local flax according to the traditional models.

Another item on the programme will be a visit to the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society in Helsinki. The Society was founded in 1831 and has some of the largest collections of folklore in the world. Participants will be introduced to the new methods of documentation and taxonomy at the archives and the new computer applications now being used in archive work. The Society has an ethnological library with a specialist folklore section in the same building.

The two-week Summer School is a concentrated training course during which many valuable contacts can be forged. I personally have learnt much from the scholars representing different cultural regions at each of the courses I have attended. Most fruitful of all have, perhaps, been the discussions that have brought to light differences in research traditions and approaches. A good Summer School can provide theoretical knowledge, suggest new methods and different interpretations. And best of all, it raises new questions about folklore and the world, and a new way of perceiving the nature and mission of our discipline in the changing world.

Welcome to Lammi!

Anna-Leena Siikala

University of Helsinki

(FFN 21, March 2001: 13-14)

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