The Violence of Traditions and the Traditions of Violence


Please note that the 10th Folklore Fellows’ Summer School has been rescheduled from 2020 to 2021 due to the corona pandemic of 2020. The dates below have been updated accordingly.

The 10th Folklore Fellows’ Summer School will be hosted by the School of Humanities at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF), in Joensuu, Finland, on 14–20 June 2021. The summer school focuses on a topical and essentially important field of research in folklore study: the violence of traditions and the traditions of violence.

Violence is not a new topic in folklore studies. Just think of ethnocentric folklore, racist and sexist jokes, the brutality of many folktales, the verbal lore of street gangs, heroic narratives and commemorations of war, victim stories of domestic and other forms of abuse, honour killings and other forms of honour violence, female genital mutilations, theatrical and/or ritual blackface presentations, (often cruel) sports involving animals, cultural appropriation and neo-colonialism in general, cultural ideas concerning sexual harassment and other forms of gendered violence.

In recent years, the violence of culture and the culture of violence has become a widely studied and hotly debated issue. The organizers of the Folklore Fellows’ Summer School 2021 think that folklorists must contribute to these debates and studies, for example, by examining the heritage aspects of violent folklore and the folklore of violence.

Keynote speakers and workshop leaders

Pertti Anttonen

Anne Heimo

Sadhana Naithani

Regina Bendix

Niina Hämäläinen

Ulla Savolainen

Charles Briggs

Kaarina Koski

Nona Shahnazarian

Terry Gunnel

Peter Jan Margry

Lotte Tarkka

Valdimar Hafstein

Stein R. Mathisen


Regina Bendix

Professor of European Ethnology, Institute for Cultural Anthropology / European Ethnology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany

The Briefest of Wars and Its Long Aftermath: 1967 through the Prism of Personal Narrative

Charles Briggs

Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor of Folklore and Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, USA

When Violence Moves across Species

Terry Gunnell

Professor in Folkloristics, University of Iceland, Reykjavik

The Violence of the Mask: From Greek Tragedy to the Avatar

Valdimar Hafstein

Professor of Folkloristics/Ethnology, University of Iceland, Reykjavik

Wrestling with Tradition: Masculinity, Modernity, and Heritage in Icelandic Glíma Wrestling

Niina Hämäläinen & Lotte Tarkka

Niina Hämäläinen: Executive Director, the Kalevala Society, Helsinki, Finland

Lotte Tarkka: Professor of Folklore Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland

#KalevalaToo. Heritage, Harassment and the Epic Heroine

Peter Jan Margry

Professor of European Ethnology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Violence Out of Practices: The Reinterpretation of ‘Blackface’ Traditions

Stein R. Mathisen

Professor, Department of Tourism and Northern Studies. UiT The Arctic University of Norway
SIEF lecturer, sponsored by SIEF (Société Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore / International Society for Ethnology and Folklore)

Northern Colonialities and Violences from a Narrative Perspective

Sadhana Naithani

Professor, Centre of German Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Wildly Ours 3.0: Tradition, Violence, Animals and Human

Nona Shahnazarian

Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences, Yerevan, Armenia

Ethnic Violence and Rescue Stories: Case-Studies from Post-Communist Hate Speech and Armed Conflicts


Regina Bendix & Valdimar Hafstein, with Ulla Savolainen

From Game to War: Gender, Memory, Domination

Framed by the respective plenaries of Valdimar T. Hafstein and Regina F. Bendix, this workshop offers opportunity for discussing violence as it is enacted and felt from the ludic to the deadly serious. How is the lure of might and power (and its violent potential) represented? how do spectators give in to its fascination? There are visual signposts for analysis, and there is a wealth of narration, from the personal and historical in its text and delivery all the way to the fictional that today often overwhelms us with visuals. How do such invocations of threatening power and experiences of “winning” or “losing” imprint themselves on individual and cultural memory?


Sadhana Naithani & Stein R. Mathisen, with Pertti Anttonen

Colonial Traditions as Postcolonial Challenges in Folkloristics

Colonialism and its cultural intervention, impression and impact have been popularly connected with European colonialism in other continents. Logically then, postcolonial thought is also considered a preserve of the erstwhile colonized non-European nations. Different forms of colonialism elsewhere, particularly in the northern European locations have been lesser known to the international community. These locations present forms of colonialism and postcolonial thought very different from European colonial empires in other continents. In this workshop we shall juxtapose the colonization, coloniality, decolonization and postcolonial in the colonial British Empire in Asia and Africa and in the northern areas of Europe and the Arctic.

This juxtaposition will be on the basis of folklore and folk culture as treated during colonial times and as reevaluated from postcolonial perspectives. As postcolonial thought is yet to make its impact felt in folkloristics, this workshop will also be an occasion for fresh and futuristic thinking about coloniality, decolonization and postcolonialism. On the one hand, we will deal with some seminal texts of postcolonialism and on the other, instances of colonial perspectives and collections will be brought to the table, contextualized and opened for postcolonial responses.


Terry Gunnell & Peter Jan Margry, with Kaarina Koski

Violence Performed: The Dark Side of Traditions, Youtube and Everyday Life, from Masking Practices to Shootings and ISIS

This workshop will focus on the “performance” of violence and violence in performance in tradition and everyday life, considering performance in the sense that scholars like Richard Schechner (see for example, Performance Studies: An Introduction) see it, as something that involves not only words but considerations of movement, space, time, expectation, memory, emotion, preparation, aftermaths, frameworks, roles and more, and not least the key elements of a performer and an audience, and something that is “performed” in space and time, creating an transportive or transformative experience for all parties. A key question is “what’s going on” in the event in question, and why.

Violence has naturally formed part of many kinds of performative ritual from the beginning of time (especially initiatory ritual and group conflict), and, within the field of folkloristics commonly occurs within the liminal, chaotic events brought about by the use of masks in folk tradition. Nowadays, one sees the performance of violent acts playing an increasingly key role in the ways in which not only terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS work (with the help of social media and the web), but also those carrying out attacks in schools, mosques, hotels and malls (who are now filming themselves live). One, of course, also sees it in territorial urban disputes between gangs (from Peaky Blinders to the modern street gangs carrying knives in London).

In all cases, we are considering violence as a form of tradition, reference commonly being made back to acts in the past. This in turn leads to further questions on the role of the web in this field, and the relationship between performed violence on the screen (on line, on television and in the cinema) and violence in the streets, and even acts of self-harm. The performative approach to questions like these subject opens up a wide range of new angles from which to tackle an equally wide range of subjects. In all cases, however, one comes back to the key question of purpose, role and effect: what’s actually “going on” here?


Nona Shahnazarian & Charles Briggs, with Anne Heimo

How Violence Moves across Text, Genre, and Enactment

In 1958, Américo Paredes’s With His Pistol in His Hand placed violence at the center of folkloristic research, but it took nearly half a century for the discipline as a whole to embrace his insights. Paredes traced how narratives of violence move across social borders, genres (such as between gossip, legends, and ballads), and media: the story of Gregorio Cortés was told in newspapers, telegraph messages, and courtroom documents as well. This workshop examines how the circulation and the material and bodily effects of accounts of violence are tied to complex interdiscursive connections across genre and media. Central issues include how folklore can both report but also give rise to forms of violence, including rhetoric of hate, ethnic cleansing, war, and genocide; how narratives of violence are sometimes suppressed, emerging through silences, gesture,  or as inscribed on living or dead bodies; how nationalism canonizes some narratives of violence and suppresses others; the role of museums, heritage regimes, and truth and reconciliation commissions in officializing particular narratives of violence; and the interaction between legacy and new media and oral performance in representing acts of violence; and how violence and nonviolence practices are embedded into traditional discourse and narratives. A central concern is tracing how forms of violence extend beyond human minds and bodies to nonhumans and environments, reframing how we think about “planet Earth.” This workshop aims to rethink folkloristics and traditional rhetoric by taking violence not simply as a possible research focus but, following Paredes, in terms of how it has—usually silently—shaped the scope and underlying assumptions of the discipline and how it continues to configure its futures.

The application process is now finished

We received altogether 63 applications. Because of the great interest in the Summer School, the organization committee decided to raise the participation quota to 28, with a good number of applicants placed on the waiting list. Additional four participants will be selected via the UEF Summer School.

We expect the selected participants to confirm their participation by September 30, 2020, and pay the 600€ participation fee by November 30, 2020. This covers tuition, meals, accommodation in twin rooms, excursions, and joint extracurricular activities in and around Joensuu, in the beautiful landscape of Northern Karelia, close to the Russian border. Unfortunately, we are unable to reimburse travel expenses or subsidize fees.

What is expected of participants?

Please note that the site of accommodation, which is a 3-storeyed building, does not have an elevator. Accommodation is in twin rooms.

The keynote lectures are open to everyone interested, but the workshops and joint activities are reserved for the participants only. Those who are not participants are welcome to have additional, unofficial workshops to discuss the keynotes and issues related to the Summer School theme.

We will make an effort to publish the keynotes as articles in a peer-reviewed edited volume, and we will offer the participants the possibility to contribute as well. Those who wish to give this a shot are encouraged to write in advance a draft of an article (10–20 pages) of their chosen topic within the broad theme of violence and folklore.

Those who are selected as participants but who do not wish to contribute to the possible publication are expected to write in advance a 5–10 page draft paper on their chosen topic, which can directly address any of the workshop themes or stand in dialogue with them in one way or another.

All participants are required to attend one of the four official workshops and give an oral presentation on their own work. In order to earn ECTS credit points, the participants are also required to write a learning diary on the basis of the keynotes and their own workshop participation.

All participants will receive a list of recommended readings in advance of the Summer School. Some of this material will be made accessible digitally.

Once the selection process is completed, the participants will get a chance to indicate which workshop they would prefer attending.

Afterwards, Folklore Fellows´ Summer School 2021 will provide a certificate of attendance and earned ECTS credits.

University of Eastern Finland / Itä-Suomen yliopisto

Oskar Öflund Foundation / Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse / Oskar Öflundin Säätiö

Joensuu University Foundation / Joensuun yliopiston tukisäätiö

The Finnish Literature Society / Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura

The Finnish Cultural Foundation / Suomen Kulttuurirahasto

SIEF (International Society for Ethnology and Folklore / Société Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore)

The Finnish Cultural Foundation, North Karelia Regional Fund / Suomen Kulttuurirahasto, Pohjois-Karjalan rahasto

Ulla Savolainen, The University of Helsinki postdoctoral project "Transnational Memory Cultures of Ingrian Finns: A Comparative Perspective on the Dynamics of Personal and Cultural Remembrance"

The Kalevala Society / Kalevalaseura

The Emil Aaltonen Foundation

The Folklore Fellows’ Summer School 2021 operates under the auspices of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters and cooperates with the UEF Summer School and the SIEF Summer School.


Welcome to Joensuu in 2021!

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