The fourth international Folklore Fellows’ Summer School was held at the Lammi research station owned by the University of Helsinki from 15 to 29 July 1997. The theme, “Tradition, Locality and Multicultural Processes”, was chosen as being one of great topicality. The globalization of the economy and communication, the fall in status of the nation state, the growing political significance of what were originally economic alliances, the disintegration of states, the birth of new ones and migration of various kinds have resulted in a situation in which the preservation of local culture, identity and traditions has become an important issue. The problems encountered by small ethnic groups in particular in maintaining their own identity and traditions are marked in times of sweeping change.
Folklorists are not alone in debating the role of ethnicity and identity in the global world. The ethnic processes under way in different parts of the world have prompted the sociologists to predict that traditions will vanish. This is not the view taken by folklorists, however. For as many of our summer papers and, indeed, the Summer School as a whole showed, the new communities are both protecting and preserving their old traditions and creating new ones.
The FF Summer School sought to establish an international forum for approaching the theme from as many angles as possible. The 27 students chosen from over 100 applicants came from 19 countries and 5 continents and the staff consisted of 14 experienced folklorists from 7 countries. Professor Anna-Leena Siikala, as Director of the School, and Secretary General Lauri Harvilahti were assisted by 11 young scholars from Finland, most of them from the University of Helsinki. There was lively discussion both during the plenum sessions in the mornings and in the working group meetings in the afternoons. The fact that the teachers and students came from all over the world ensured that the perspective was not too biased towards Europe, and that “worlds flowing into each other” was not just an empty phrase. Global interaction was within reach of all.
Local culture in practice
The programme also included several excursions designed to give the students a taste of Finnish culture and a chance to visit places of folkloristic interest. Lammi, where the school was held, is set in a typical Southern Finnish landscape of dense forests and rolling fields studded with lakes large and small. The students were kept busy from morning to night and local traditions were demonstrated to them in many ways. The local culture is still important at Lammi, which is particularly famous for its flax and its soft, home-brewed ale. The weather during the course was hot and fine, and many of the group sessions were held outside in the research station grounds, with breaks every now and then for a refreshing dip in the nearby lake.
A visit to the Linen Centre showed how the flax growing in the field is converted into finished handicrafts. The presentation of local culture was not, however, confined to craft demonstrations only, since the students also had a chance to see Lammi in action. One warm, dusky evening they sampled the delights of the Finnish tango at a traditional open-air dance pavilion, while their visit to Risto Karhula’s farm revealed the secret of making the traditional sahti ale. Naturally there was a chance to taste some ale and another local speciality, Lammi cheese.
Finnish nature was the subject of the visit to the Lake Päijänne National Park reached by steamer on the MS Tehi. Awaiting the group on Kelvenne island was a guide from the Päijänne Nature Centre, who described some of the special features of Finland’s flora and fauna. The whole-day trip to Helsinki took in a visit to the Folklore Archive of the Finnish Literature Society (the oldest and largest of its kind in Finland) and the Department of Folklore at the University of Helsinki.
The warm summer evenings the students spent lazing round a camp fire, being entertained by singing and folk dancing and sizzling in the sauna bath down by the lake. Once again the Finnish sauna was one of the main topics of conversation and amazement.
University of Helsinki
University of Joensuu
(FFN 14, December 1997: 2)