The third Folklore Fellows’ Summer School (FFSS) was held from June 26 to July 9, 1995. The first (“The Folklore Process,” 1991) and the second (“Tradition and Renewal in the Folklore Process,” 1993) summer schools concentrated on the processes of transformation in folklore and questions of use and interpretation. The theme chosen for the third school was “Tradition and Conflicting Identity” and focused on the cultural processes in which tradition serves as the point of reference for identity and its manifestation. The school thus aimed to examine the diversity and contradictions inherent in the processes of defining various identities and the use of folklore in these processes at different times and in different cultures.

The theme of the course is an important one in today’s changing world, where traditions are being invented and exploited both to distinguish between and to bring together various ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. In Europe, as indeed the world over, there has been increasing evidence of group conflicts that could erupt at the slightest provocation. There is also constant discussion even within groups over what are considered right and wrong traditions, and over the interpretation of the group’s own history. In solving these conflicts, folklorists may occupy an important role, since they are able to analyse problems theoretically, drawing on knowledge and experience acquired from different cultures and ethnic processes. One of the objectives of the summer school was in fact to provide a global forum for debate on the theoretical premises for the study of folklore and identity, related research traditions and perspectives. The course thus sought to provide scholars from both the developing countries and the Western industrial states with an opportunity for genuine dialogue and for passing on their own research experiences and traditions.


The course was designed for postgraduates and was held at the Mekrijärvi Research Station of the University of Joensuu, in an area of eastern Finland steeped in the ancient rune-singing tradition. It was organised by the Folklore Fellows of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, the departments of folkloristics at the universities of Helsinki, Joensuu, Tampere, Turku and the Åbo Akademi, the Finnish Literature Society (Helsinki) and the Nordic Institute of Folklore (Turku). The planning and organisation were in the hands of an organising committee consisting of:

Professor Anna-Leena Siikala, Joensuu (chair)
Academy Professor Lauri Honko, Turku (vice ch.)
Dr. Pekka Hakamies, Joensuu (secretary general)
Sinikka Vakimo, Ph.L., Joensuu (course secretary)
Leena Waismaa-Matsi, B.A., Joensuu (course secr.)
Dr. Lauri Harvilahti, Helsinki
Director Reimund Kvideland, Turku
Director Pekka Laaksonen, Helsinki
Professor Timo Leisiö, Tampere
Professor Aili Nenola, Turku
Lotte Tarkka, Ph.L., Helsinki
Professor Leea Virtanen, Helsinki
Dr. Ulrika Wolf-Knuts, Turku

The practical arrangements were the responsibility of the Department of Folklore Studies at the University of Joensuu under Professor Anna-Leena Siikala.

As its teachers the school had recruited scholars who have in their research been addressing identity issues from various folkloristic perspectives. The teachers were:

Professor Richard Bauman, U.S.A.
Professor John Miles Foley, U.S.A.
Dr. Lauri Harvilahti, Finland
Professor Galit Hasan-Rokem, Israel
Dr. Kaija Heikkinen, Finland
Academy Professor Lauri Honko, Finland
Dr. Barbro Klein, Sweden
Researcher Stein Mathisen, Norway
Professor Aili Nenola, Finland
Professor Anna-Leena Siikala, Finland
Professor Surjeet Singh, India
Professor Niaz Zaman, Bangladesh.

The summer schools have sought to foster informal discussions in which the distinction between teacher and student is often a very nebulous one. The educational background of the scholars applying for the course has helped in this respect. Many of the applicants are established university teachers and researchers, some even professors. Numerous applications are further received from postgraduates, people working in archives or the arts, and teachers. At the school all the students are thus experts in their own specific fields and are able to pass on their personal knowledge to the other participants.

Despite the economic recession, the summer school aroused interest the world over. The students were thus selected not only according to the need for training and research interests stated in their applications but also to represent different countries and continents as fairly as possible. The following applicants were accepted for the course:

Ms. Hande Birkalan, Turkey
Mr. Borjigin Buhchulu, China
Ms. Isabel Cardigos, Portugal
Mr. Sabarimuthu Carlose, India
Mr. Chogjin, China
Ms. Jo Ann Conrad, U.S.A
Ms. Xiaoping Dong, China
Mr. David Gay, USA
Ms. Kathleen Glenister, U.S.A
Ms. Lotte Gustafsson, Sweden
Mr. Habib-Ul-Alam, Bangladesh
Ms. Helmi Järviluoma, Finland
Ms. Eeva-Liisa Kinnunen, Finland
Ms. Bjorg Kjaer, Denmark
Mr. Ermis Lafazanovski, Macedonia
Mr. Swaminathan Lourdusamy, India
Ms. Elina Makkonen, Finland
Ms. Baiba Meistere, Latvia
Mr. Erik Nagel, Denmark
Ms. K.V.S.L. Narasamamba, India
Mr. Hamza Mustafa Njozi, Tanzania
Mr. Lillis O’Laoire, Ireland
Ms. Maria Palleiro, Argentina
Ms. Stephanie Smith, U.S.A
Mr. Pulikonda Subbachary, India
Ms. Lidia Tojdybekova, Russia
Mr. Ülo Valk, Estonia
Ms. Maria Vasenkari, Finland
Ms. Irina Vinokurova, Russia

One student was also selected from Nigeria and one from Lithuania but they were unfortunately prevented at the last moment from attending.


The mornings at the school were devoted to lectures followed by discussions. The afternoons were spent working in groups, and the evenings studying such things as video techniques and editing and the use of computers, or preparing papers for the next day. The various excursions and social events provided a change from the daily routine. And the Finns and foreigners alike all agreed that a sauna bath – epitome of the Finnish national identity – accompanied by a birch whisk and a dip in the lake was one of the best ways of relaxing after a long day.

Excursions were arranged to local places of interest. Although only a small minority of the Finns belong to the Orthodox Church, it has nevertheless had a major impact on the culture of eastern Finland. Members of the course were able to see something of the village-festival tradition at the religious Petru Festival celebrated annually in the most easterly village in Finland, Hattuvaara. In addition to the religious rituals, the festival nowadays includes music, speeches and dance performances and is an opportunity for the villagers to get together. Another excursion was made to the Valamo Monastery and Lintula Convent (formerly in Russian Karelia) and the convent’s wax candle factory.

There were plenty of buildings and textiles symbolic of Karelian culture to see at Parppeinvaara, a tourist centre at Ilomantsi. The Möhkö Iron Works museum was another of the places visited, and the course participants got a taste of the local customs at the late-night pig festival at a local restaurant. This pig festival is a relative newcomer in Finland and serves as a general excuse for eating, drinking and socialising. It has its roots in the Mediterranean festivals of the same name, having been smuggled home by Finnish holiday makers. In more serious vein, there were also official visits to the University and City of Joensuu.

Cultural identity and tradition

The subject of cultural identity and tradition was examined from various perspectives at the Summer School. Lauri Honko (University of Turku) made an exhaustive analysis of some of the basic concepts and angles applied in the study of identity and tradition and scrutinised the meaning of different identities, such as national and local, cultural and personal. As a concrete example of ethnic identity and cultural survival he surveyed the present state of the Finno-Ugrian peoples.

The distinguished expert on identity and modernisation Professor Hermann Bausinger (University of Tübingen) was unfortunately prevented by illness from attending the course in person, but his paper was read and stimulated lively discussion. In it he analysed the factors contributing to the emergence of a uniform cultural identity in Europe. By way of comparison he took the cultural melting-pot model of the United States and the special problems raised by the nationalist states. Bausinger ultimately concluded that in this era of global culture, “Europeanness means communicating differences”.

Stein Mathisen (Finnmark College) brought out the sameness-difference dichotomy inherent in ethnic identity. He examined the dimensions of national and ethnic, individual and collective identity in relationships between the Saamis and the Norwegians. Barbro Klein (Stockholm University) addressed the subject of ethical and ideological conflicts, calling the various levels of ethical issues in research “ethical spaces”. She particularly stressed the contribution and participation of the researcher both as a person and as an analyst in debating the ethical issues arising in research. In their papers Klein and Mathisen also investigated the way cultural and ethnic identity is manifest; this was in fact one of the main themes of the papers and discussions. Mathisen observed manifestations of identity in oral discourse, Klein in the ways people tend their gardens and recollect their lives.

Gender-specific research approaches and manifestations of identity were raised in a number of papers. Surjeet Singh (Punjabi University) compared the tradition of the holy man from the gender perspective both in high-culture texts and in folk narrative. He gave a fascinating account of the Indian village tradition, which includes a no-man’s-land, “the forest”, somewhere outside the village – a scene of practical action but also one bearing mythological and narrative dimensions. Niaz Zaman (University of Dhaka) examined the process by which the ornamentation in women’s handicrafts has travelled from the private to the public domain, leaving the home to become a national symbol. A similar process was observed by Kaija Heikkinen (University of Joensuu) in a Veps village in Russia, describing the religious rituals observed by the old women and debating whether they could at some point become part of the ethnic identity. The gender aspect of culture was also taken up by Aili Nenola (University of Turku), whose papers analysed the gender perspectives present at theoretical level in folkloristics. Together with Isabel Cardigos, she also considered the use of the female body as a cultural and ethnic representation.

Genre, the polyvocality of texts and questions arising in the study of folklore performance and dialogue were the subjects of the papers by Galit Hasan-Rokem (Hebrew University) and Richard Bauman (Indiana University). Bauman sought to analyse the relationships between performance and poetics as a means to getting to the heart of broader cultural and historical processes. As concrete examples he took the forms and dynamics of intertextuality, and structures of mediation of oral poetry. Galit Hasan-Rokem operated with dialogues and discourses and pointed out the important dialogical research approach embracing analysis of the relationship between the informant and the researcher, the observation of conflicts and compromises, and allowance for the prevailing power relationships.

The processes moulding oral tradition, its use, and the relationships between epic and identity were examined by John Miles Foley (University of Missouri) and Lauri Harvilahti (University of Helsinki). Foley surveyed the scientific debate on the moulding of oral tradition. He mentioned the origins of the composite theory and the research perspectives which have had the greatest influence on it, such as the oral-formulaic theory, ethnopoetics and performance theory. In another paper Foley summarised the themes of all the course papers. He examined the relationship between epic and identity, taking examples from various epic traditions. Lauri Harvilahti looked into the production and use of oral poetry, examining migratory meanings in different traditions. The paper by Anna-Leena Siikala (University of Joensuu) was about interpretations of mythical history. In traditional cultures mythical and real are not, according to her, either opposites or mutually exclusive. Oral tradition can, however, be examined as the production of mythical history, as part of the processing of cultural identity.

Working in groups

The thematic groups to which all the participants were assigned were an important element in the Summer School curriculum. The aim of the groups was, in general, to study in depth a theme given in advance, to discuss it in the light of each participant’s research experience, and to deal with participants’ own research projects. While the groups differed somewhat in their working procedures, they all submitted a written final report for general discussion. Participants were assigned to groups in advance according to the research problems to be addressed and so as to ensure that each group included postgraduates and researchers from as many parts of the world as possible. The groups engaged in fieldwork, got practice in the production of video material or concentrated on computer techniques. The video course was taught by Jyrki Kurki and the computer course by Juhani Luhtanen.

Group I, led by Anna-Leena Siikala, attacked the theme of “Tradition – Authority and Authenticity”. This was for the most part approached via the participants’ own, concrete fieldwork. Each member of the group problemised the chosen topic – the Petru Festival – via his or her personal research interests. The festival was observed, filmed on video and read about in the literature. Each member of the group then made a little report. Going through these research reports together provided an opportunity for a methodological discussion of the problems and ethnographical description issues arising at the various stages of research. The members of the group also discussed their own research plans among themselves. The group produced a video of the Petru Festival, giving practice in video shooting and editing.

John Miles Foley and Lauri Harvilahti were the leaders of Group II, “Epic and Identity”, which set itself two aims: to debate the interrelationship of national epics and identity, and the traditional, constitutive features of those epics. It therefore took a look at the epic traditions familiar to and studied by members of the group. Prepared papers were read. To begin with epic was examined in the light of oral-formulaic theory, proceeding to analysis of individual features of epic traditions by means of such concepts as formula, typical scene and discourse markers. The core item for examination was the poet’s ability to produce traditional meanings by combining elements using e.g. metrical devices, alliteration and parallelism. One of the conclusions reached by the group was that each tradition has its own repertoire of structures and signals, stemming from its particular linguistic resources.

Gender themes were discussed by Group III, led by Aili Nenola. The theme of this group was “Gender and Power”. Most of the discussion was based on prepared papers on the semantic links between power and gender in the participant’s research. As a concrete joint project the group observed the Pig Festival in the nearby village. The participants then wrote their own reports on the festival, analysing their attitude as researchers and as female observers from the power perspective. The group also produced a video of the festival.

“Dialogical Aspects of Fieldwork” was the heading of Group IV led by Galit Hasan-Rokem and Outi Lehtipuro (University of Helsinki). The group primarily set out to analyse how various dialogical components influence the fieldworker in the course of research, the collection and analysis of field material, and group dynamics. The group studied the theoretical principles of the dialogical research approach. Among the crucial issues were: 1. Who are the participants in the dialogue? 2. What acts as the bridge to interaction? and 3. What are the power relationships in dialogue? The group applied the theoretical principles by means of practical fieldwork, observation of the Petru Festival. Each participant then thematicised the fieldwork from his or her own perspective for communal analysis. The members of the group also discussed their own research projects in a dialogical light.

Barbro Klein and Group V discussed the theme of “Ethnography and Presentation”. The participants each outlined their research, with special reference to research ethics, ethical dilemmas and conflicts. Because the members all had very different methodological and theoretical backgrounds, they tried to identify factors which all could accept as fundamental elements of ethnography. The group conducted fieldwork at the Petru Festival. They discussed aspects of the production of ethnography by comparing their field reports and ethnographical analyses. Identity, dialogue, ethnography and ethical problems were the main themes discussed by this group.


Two symposia were held in conjunction with the Summer School: a Silk Road Symposium and a Symposium of Kalevalaic Poetry. The Silk Road Symposium met under the leadership of Lauri Harvilahti to study the history of the Silk Road, and the languages, peoples and cultures along it. The traveller along the Silk Road will also find a large number of living epic traditions previously unknown to scholars. Since many of the Summer School participants represented Silk Road cultures, the symposium was able to act as a forum for scholars familiar with its different national and ethnic traditions.

At the symposium Lauri Harvilahti read a paper on the cultures and history of the Silk Road, concentrating particularly on epics and cultural identity. The participants then commented on his paper in the light of their own tradition backgrounds. For example, Habib-Ul-Alam from the Bangla Academy commented on the film about Bangladesh epic shown at the symposium. According to him, it is possible to find a number of the epic motifs mentioned by Harvilahti in folk drama. Niaz Zaman informed the group that epic motifs also feature in textile art, such as in Kantha embroidery. The Chinese scholars Chogjin and Buhchulu representing Mongolian culture commented on the nature of the mythical and historical images in the Gesar epic mentioned in Harvilahti’s paper, pointing out that the literary and oral traditions are constantly interacting. Mythical motifs are also repeated in high-culture products. Surjeet Singh and Pulikonda Subbachary, experts on Indian tradition, expressed their views on epic traditions, Hande Birkalan and Jo Ann Conrad on Turkish tradition, and Mustafa Njozi on Tanzanian. All in all there are along the Silk Road still cultures rich in epic traditions and maintained by manifold ethnic groups that would provide fruitful substance for joint research.

Present-day perspectives of research into the Finnish-Karelian oral tradition and especially Kalevalaic poetry were the subject of the other Summer School symposium, on Kalevalaic Poetry. The aim of this symposium was to give participants an insight into the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, its singers, and traditional Finnish-Karelian culture.

The symposium began with an introduction by Anna-Leena Siikala entitled “Transformations of Oral Poetry” examining the background to Kalevalaic poetry and the focal issues in its research. Lauri Honko’s paper “The Fascination of Long Epic” picked out features of the long oral epic and the reasons leading to its production, such as individualistic factors, the existence of a suitable poetic culture, a clear model, the structure of the performing situation and the composition of plots. Senni Timonen (Finnish Literature Society) spoke on “The Lyrical Voice of Mekrijärvi”. According to her, the family or village did not necessarily constitute a distinctive, uniform “singer’s voice”. Each singer expressed him- or herself in a personal way. On examining the lyrical poetry collected at Mekrijärvi she could, however, distinguish the voices of the master and the landless, and again of the wife and widows.

Lotte Tarkka (University of Turku) presented a paper on “The Kalevala in Exile: The Story of a Displaced Bard” drawing on new, versatile material to paint a portrait of the rune-singer Riiko Kallio in a historical and socio-cultural context. Seppo Knuuttila (Finnish Literature Society) provided another portrait in a paper entitled “The Last Rune-Singer” in Finnish high and folk culture. He analysed the general meanings ascribed to the discovery of the last rune-singer.

The symposium continued with performances of folklore. Honorary Arts Professor Heikki Laitinen (Sibelius Academy) performed an improvised version of the Sampo cycle sung by Arhippa Perttunen in 1834 and clearly demonstrated by his singing that poetry intended for oral presentation can also be viable in an environment accustomed to literary culture. Laitinen was followed by a local rune-singer and folklore performer, Mrs Martta Kuikka, who gave an interesting talk about various folklore genres, learning and using them, and performed some laments and runes. The programme ended with an illustrated talk by Juhani Luhtanen (Joensuu University) on the Hyper Kalevala project, the aim of which is to produce a CD-ROM on Kalevalaic poetry and its culture, its study and significance to the Finnish ethos.

Looking ahead to 1997

The biggest problem facing the Summer School was – once again – the lack of time. The participants were kept busy from early morning to late at night, yet even so most of them felt there was not enough time. There also seemed to be insufficient time for discussion. The majority of the participants did, however, express their satisfaction with the Summer School and considered it very important for the School to continue in the future. They would like to keep in touch with the other participants as a means of enhancing multicultural debate. They accordingly wish the next Folklore Fellows’ Summer School to be held in 1997 every success.

Sinikka Vakimo
FFSS course secretary 1995

(FFN 11, October 1995: 2-5, 9)

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