The object of my visit to Finland was to accept an invitation to attend the Folklore Fellows’ Summer School, an international training course for the study of folklore and traditional culture, at the University of Turku from the 2nd to the 14th August, 1993.
The Folklore Fellows is an international network of folklorists, based in Finland and operating under the auspices of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters in Helsinki. The executive chairman of the Folklore Fellows is Professor Lauri Honko, currently a research professor with the Academy of Finland.
The organisation of FFSS is a joint venture between the Folklore Fellows, 5 departments of folklore (or related disciplines) in Finnish universities (Helsinki, Joensuu, Tampere, Turku and Åbo Akademi), the Finnish Literature Society (SKS) and the Academy of Finland. Consequently, it was possible for me to meet staff members of all these agencies and departments during my stay in Turku. In addition, the programme for the FFSS included visits to the Department of Cultural Studies in the University of Turku, the Folklore Archive of the Finnish Literature Society and Seurasaari Open-air Museum in Helsinki, and the head-office of the Nordic Institute of Folklore in Turku.
The main business of FFSS involved over 35 hours of formal lectures relating to the central theme of the school i.e. “Tradition and Renewal in the Folklore Process”. These lectures were given by many of the most eminent folklorists – 17 in all – from Finland (both Finnish and Finnish-Swedish), other Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) and the wider world of folkloristics (India, Israel and the United States). The programme also included over 40 hours of intensive group activity by the participants under the direction of one of the lecturers. Each participant was allocated to two groups, one related to a current theme in folkloristics and another based on region/country of origin. In the first case, I was allocated to a group which had the task of researching and preparing a paper on “History, Folklore and Identity”; in the second, the American and European participants were asked to discuss dialogue between centres of folkloristics in their respective countries.
There were 27 participants in FFSS 1993, which was open to established and younger scholars in folkloristics. The participants were recruited on a global basis and included scholars from Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Finland, India, Israel, Kenya, Latvia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Sierra Leone, Sweden, the United States and Ireland. Each participant had prepared papers in advance to be read to their respective thematic and regional groups. My own contributions centered on (i) the relationship between folklore and the ideology of identity in Ireland, and (ii) the current position of folklore and folkloristics in Ireland.
At the conclusion of FFSS 1993, each participant was invited to become an Associate Member of the Folklore Fellows.
I have already benefitted greatly from the higher education exchange visit to Finland and specifically to FFSS 1993. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet so many eminent and younger scholars in the field of folkloristics at one time and in one place. The formal lectures afforded me the opportunity to be aware of current trends and preoccupations in folkloristics in Finland as well as in other countries. The extensive bibliographies provided at each lecture, the references to important and influential academic articles and the FFSS’s own library of folkloristics and related disciplines have allowed me to bring my own knowledge and skills in folkloristics up to date. I also feel that, building on the new knowledge acquired, the academic contacts made in Turku, and the many FF and SKS publications available at greatly reduced prices and brought back to Limerick, the benefits of my participation in FFSS 1993 will last for many years to come.
Liam î Dochartaigh
Assistant Dean: Academic Affairs
College of Humanities
University of Limerick
(FFN 7, November 1993: 8)