Tradition, locality and multicultural processes
Folklore Fellows’ Summer School 1997

The fourth international Folklore Fellows’ Summer School, on “Tradition, locality and multicultural processes”, will be held at the Lammi Research Station of the University of Helsinki on July 15-29, 1997 and will aim to provide researchers, university teachers and archivists with an insight into current theoretical and practical issues in folklore research.

The general topic of the Folklore Fellows’ Summer School is the necessity to stimulate global debate apace with the developments now taking place in folklore research. Familiarity with the traditions of different cultural areas is a basic prerequisite for obtaining theoretical perspectives with an all-round approach to folklore. Similarly, regional folkloristics is fertilised by the application of up-to-date theoretical ideas. Every effort is accordingly being taken to make the FFSS courses forums in which scholars representing different parts of the world can meet and exchange ideas. Thirty participants from different countries will be accepted for the course, and the teachers will represent different research traditions.

The 1997 course will seek to provide new knowledge in the core areas of folkloristics. It will be paying attention to the cultural and social significance of tradition, to problems arising in the interpretation and use of folklore, to the diversity of folklore processes and to the meaning of folklore in the practical lives of men and women, people of different ages and from different cultural backgrounds. During the course participants will also have a chance to debate the modern documentation and archiving of folklore. The programme will include a visit to the Folklore Archive of the Finnish Literature Society founded in 1831. This archive contains over three million folklore items and is in its role as a central archive trying to develop techniques for the digitalisation and data-based archiving of folklore.

Tradition, locality, and multicultural processes

The internationalisation of the economy and communications, changes in systems of government and the migration of peoples for a variety of reasons have created a historic situation in which problems of locality and translocality, identity and the tradition maintaining it are felt to be important. In the single-market Europe with its long nation-state history various local identities are gaining ground, while in many countries of Asia, Africa and the Pacific region the construction of an ethnically significant culture is still only in its infancy.

The nation-state crisis in Europe has prompted some sociologists to predict the vanishing of traditions. The evidence is nevertheless to the contrary. Internationalisation may destroy the traditions tied to crumbling institutions, but at the same time this makes way for new communities creating and preserving traditions. Ethnomimesis, the imitation of a former traditional culture, applies to the fight for survival of small groups and the small communities seeking to build a local identity alike. Traditions form a tie between displaced communities and create significant distinctions within the urban masses. Traditions are born and thrive. Their forms and mentalities may be new, but their authenticity, value and reality to those who maintain them cannot be denied.

Recent scholarly debate has become interested in the way the cultural past is revived to give the group identity validity. Traditions are constructed creatively, to suit the needs of the present moment. They do not mean the same for all, but they do provide a basis for reflecting on various experiences. Traditions both draw together and set apart.

The 1997 Folklore Fellows’ Summer School will be paying special attention to the construction of traditions in multicultural communities, to the political use of folklore and its status as a means of self-definition. The local community or, say, the family constructs and presents itself by means of tradition just as much as the individual placed according to the gender system and his or her status in society.

Themes for the lectures and working groups

The social use of folklore and its role in constructing the identity of the individual cannot be fruitfully addressed until its general forms and terms of existence are known. The discussions at the FFSS 1997 will therefore be based on scholarly lectures dealing with folklore theory and basic issues. Eight to ten well-known folklorists will be invited to lecture on the course. The timetable will be made up of morning lectures, afternoon group work, whole-day theme seminars and excursions. The lectures will examine the praxis, poetics, meaning and textualisation of folklore within the framework of the course themes. Special attention will be paid to research into the genres important in the political and institutional use of folklore, such as epic and religious traditions.

The contribution of each participant will be vital to the success of the course. The working groups will discuss problems related to the participants’ own research topics and to the themes of the course. Each participant should therefore be prepared to give a brief account of his/her particular research problems. There will be five working groups in all, the themes of which have been tentatively chosen as follows:

1. Myth, politics and construction of traditions
2. Folklore, local history, and landscape
3. Presenting the self and ethnicity
4. Poetics of age and gender
5. Epic traditions and ethnic identity

Since the working groups will be designed to serve their participants’ needs as closely as possible, the themes may be amended once the applications have been received. Participants will also have a chance to study the use of audio-visual aids. The programme will also include an excursion during which course members will learn about folklore research at the University of Helsinki and visit the Finnish Literature Society.

Six years of FF Summer Schools

The Folklore Fellows’ Summer School is an international summer school in folkloristics held once every two years and seeking to promote research in the field within the context of global debate. Part of the Folklore Fellows organisation of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, the Summer School was founded by Professor Lauri Honko in 1990 and is one item in the Graduate School in folkloristics financed by the Academy of Finland. The organisation is in the hands of the departments of folkloristics at five Finnish universities and the Nordic Institute of Folklore. The Chairman of the FFSS Organising Committee since 1992 has been Professor Anna-Leena Siikala and the Vice-Chairman Professor Lauri Honko. Docents Lauri Harvilahti and Pekka Hakamies have acted as Secretary General responsible for the practical running of the courses. The Secretary General for the 1997 course will once again be Docent Harvilahti.

To teach on the course the FFSS has invited Finnish researchers and top international folklorists recruited from Scandinavia, continental Europe, the United States, Asia and Africa. The basic idea on which the Summer School rests has met with the approval of the global folklorist community. So far over four hundred applications have been received, and some 150 folklorists from over 30 countries have been able to attend the courses.

The course themes have led to a sequence of discussions in which issues raised on previous courses have pointed the way for the topics of subsequent courses. The theme for 1991, “The Folklore Process”, was an attempt to examine the role of folklore as a whole in both traditional and modern societies. The holistic approach means that in addition to the theoretical examination of folklore, special attention was paid to fieldwork, documentation techniques, archiving, and the use of folklore in cultural life. The authenticity of folklore, its potential applications, its significance in maintaining identities, its commercial and political functions are factors of influence in the protection and development of folklore and cultural traditions.

The first and second FF Summer School were held in Turku. “Tradition and Renewal in the Folklore Process” (1993) concentrated on the processes of folklore transformation, problems of use, interpretation and adaptation in various cultural contexts. The lectures took up some of the focal issues in the folklore process, folklore as a representation of cultural awareness, problems of folklore discourse and genre, the traditions of folkloristics in Europe, America and India, the ethics of tradition research, gender studies, and the investigation of performance, meaning and textualisation of folklore.

The theme for 1995 was “Folklore and Conflicting Identities”. The course was held in Kalevala song country, at Mekrijärvi in Ilomantsi, so the focus of interest was naturally research into epic poetry. The lectures and working groups discussed the role of folklore in maintaining cultural identity and the potential of research for illuminating ethnic conflicts both in traditional minority cultures and in modern multicultural societies.

The role of folklore in manifesting cultural identity has been examined in lectures at the previous Summer Schools. The debate in 1995 demonstrated that – in addition to world events and recent trends in research – the significance of folklore needs to be addressed more thoroughly in a post-industrial world where locality and translocality, ethnic and national are moulding the lives of nations just as much as multiculturalism and the reorganisation of the gender and age-group relations. In these processes the construction and preservation of tradition can provide substance for people’s lives and values and also affect their future choices.

FFSS 1997 at Lammi

The 1997 Summer School is to be held at the Lammi Research Station of the University of Helsinki. Lammi is in Southern Finland, set amid typical Finnish scenery made up of a mosaic of lakes and forests. Helsinki, Turku and Tampere are within easy reach.

The recruitment for the course will be global. There will be 30 participants plus a dozen teachers and other staff. Most of the teachers will remain with their groups throughout the programme. Participants will be selected from the applicants so that 10 will come from Asia, Africa and the Pacific countries, 10 from the Nordic countries and 10 from continental Europe and America. The participation fee will be USD 400. The Summer School will if necessary try to arrange grants for participants from Asia and Africa to cover their travelling expenses, board and lodging. The course will provide full board and lodging in a research station milieu.

The participants will receive a certificate of attendance and associate membership of the Folklore Fellows. This will give them a chance to follow future developments in scholarly training and to learn about publications and other FF activities. In other words, contacts with participants will continue after the course.

The teaching language will be English. The deadline for applications is October 31, 1996, and application forms are enclosed with this issue of the FF Network. Applications should be sent to Folklore Fellows’ Summer School, Department of Folklore, P.O.Box 3, SF-00014 Helsinki University, Finland.

Welcome to Lammi!

Anna-Leena Siikala
Professor of Folklore, University of Helsinki
Chair of the FFSS 1997

(FFN 12, June 1996: 2, 5-6)

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