Below the invitation to the conference all abstracts for the conference is published, in alfabethical order.  Scroll down to read!

“Why folkloristics?”

Visby 10-12 June 2015

On the one hand, folkloristics is the study of cultural forms and expressions – central to it are stories and storytelling, memory and remembering, cognitive worlds, expressive forms and not least an interest for people’s own creativity and narrative competence. On the other hand, the study of such forms and expressions contains cultural theoretical work. The cultural understanding of folkloristics lies close to that of anthropology, but with extra weight placed on tradition – both as material and as a cultural process. The great interest for expressive and strongly marked forms adds an important aesthetical dimension to the discipline’s cultural definitions. Folkloristic’s contributions to cultural theory are fundamentally marked by the material we have chosen to work with, while at the same time these theoretical contributions also produce knowledge about certain cultural expressions.
Folklore studies in the Nordic countries today stand before great challenges. Whilst the subject has grown at universities in Iceland and Estonia, in recent times it has also decreased in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. At the same time, during recent decades, large areas of the cultural and social sciences have shown a detailed interest in central, well-established fields of research within the field of folklore. A number of “turns” towards narrativity, materiality, performativity, form and style have created new “overlaps” which have opened up potential spaces for both the development and transmission of knowledge between several different disciplines. Folklore scholars should therefore also be able to continue to play an important role for the cultural sciences, not least through the unique forms of knowledge that the two sides of the folkloristic tradition enable.

Conference in Visby, Gotland, Sweden, 10-12 June 2015

Set against this background, we wish to gather folklorists, ethnologists and other cultural researchers to a discussion about folkloristics current contributions to today’s development of knowledge in the cultural sciences. “Why Folkloristics! has two questions as its starting point: “To what do we need folkloristics?” and “What kinds of knowledge do folklorists claim to produce?”

We welcome contributions to highlight these questions in the form of papers and sessions. We welcome papers both with focus on cultural theoretical work and on empirical studies. Thematically the papers can take inspiration from the entire folkloristic field of research.
They could for example touch upon:

  • small personal narratives
  • large narratives about the nation, Europe or the world
  • the relationship between tradition and innovation
  • cultural heritage and memory research
  • expressive forms, expressivity and performance
  • stories and narrative
  • media and mediation
  • materiality


Ali Osman Abdurrezzak, Kastamonu University, Kastamonu/Turkey

Socio-Cultural and Economical Functions of The Village Chambers and Its Transformation In The Modern Life: The Case of Village Chambers In Kastamonu

The functions of village chambers which is one of the places where the social interaction takes part intensely the village folks have been researched in terms of social, cultural and economical. The information about village, terms corresponding to village chambers is given. That the village chambers which have features such as unity and solidarity, accommodation, honour, juridical affairs, gaining social control, being a cooperation center, entertainment are the places transmitting culture is seen. In this context, the field study on differents between the functions of village chambers in the past and today’s with Kastamonu village chambers are tried to determine. The socio-economic conditions which reasons the change of tradition in time human communication and cultural transmission transmitted to electronic culture medium and individualised by the innovations from technological developments by looking at the data gained.

In this study, it is determined the functions of the village chambers in the past and todays on the basis of the examples of the village chambers in Kastamonu city which is located in the western Black Sea Region of Turkey. In addition to field study, it is tried to explain the subtitles of functions by making a literature review. it is discussed on the effect of modern life in terms the underliying reasons of transformation tendency of village campers into culture rooms and transformation effort from the nostalgic structure of the cultural heritage to the popular aspect in order to aim to enliven the village chambers which is a forgotten cultural heritage.


Sevdagul Aliyeva, Regional Study Department, Azerbaijan

Development of national identity in Azerbaijan and Norway

National identity consists of factors of collective mentality, such as ethnicity, language, culture and religion. The impact of these factors varies with geographical and historical conditions. An ethnic identity is a type of cultural collectivity. It combines the genetic selection and the myths of descent emphasized by contemporary distinctions. Experts say, commitment to homeland nature, respect and care for national traditions play an irreplaceable role in endowing the youths with moral and emotional feelings. A person with no knowledge of the history, language and culture of his or her own people does not have the sense of national identity.

Norwegians have very strong ties with their roots. Even though they gained independence later than other European countries, preserving national identity has become the most important issue of the further development. Norwegians as well as Azerbaijanis did not have a sovereign country for a long time until 20th century, and they did not experience serf age. The main achievement of both nations is a national dignity.

Azerbaijan has many similarities in culture with Norway. Both nations value and preserve historical and cultural heritage. Tolerance and care for the other are also specific relationships that are highly valued both in Norwegian and Azerbaijani societies. Hospitality also played an important role in Norwegian culture. For instance, it was long the custom for a Norwegian farm wife to hang under the roof of her storehouse a basket with folded flat bread, a butter box, and cured meat and sausage, with a white tablecloth draped over everything–just in case someone dropped by.

In this article author will compeer the historical way of development of Azerbaijani and Norwegians ethnography and influents   the ethnic traditions to the national identity of these nations.



Alf Arvidsson, Umeå university

 Canon, class, competence?

Starting in examples of written poetry, I want to discuss what the canon of folklore has meant both in terms of making artistic expression of subordinated groups visible and qualified as research object, but also how canonized forms tend to marginalize other forms – especially when folklore is constructed as an opposite to high culture or mass media culture.


Anna Blomster, U.C.L.A

Lilla Sverigebyn, Little Sweden village, Das Kleine Schwedendorf – red cottages and the experience of an authentic Swedish summer

On the webpage for Vimmerby Tourist Agency, the holiday village Lilla Sverigebyn [Little Sweden village] in the region Småland is pitched by the statement ”En riktig svensk sommarsemester betyder att man bor i en röd stuga!” [An authentic Swedish summer vacation means that you live in a red cottage!]. Another webpage claims that the village offers “boende i traditionella svenska stugor” [accomodation in traditional Swedish cottages]. The statements raise questions about how the terms “authenticity” and “tradition” are used in the “cottage industry”.

In this cottage industry – by which I mean the selling and leasing of summer vacation homes – the ambition is to sell “authentic” experiences to customers by playing on the idea of an idyllic rural past. In this endeavour, the scene of a red painted cottage in the nostalgic setting of an imaginary Bullerby is a ”scenographic classic” (Löfgren 2007:79). This paper will explore how the idea of authenticity is used in the marketing of Lilla Sverigebyn, and how rural nostalgia, conceptualized in the term Bullerbykänsla [Bullerby-feeling], is used to sell the experience of an authentic Swedish summer, primarily to German tourists.

Although Lilla Sverigebyn uses national icons such as the red cottage and Astrid Lindgren, and refers to an authentic Swedish summer, the rural nostalgia that is the foundation for the marketing of Lilla Sverigebyn is assembled from a ”coherent collection of signs for tradition, continuity and gemeinschaft” that goes beyond national borders. (Gyimothy 2005:124). Rather than something explicitly “authentic Swedish” it is thus possible to argue that what really is being sold is a “village in the mind”; a village that might as well be German (Urry 2002:88).


Mícheál Briody, University of Helsinki

‘Not a safe haven: the fate of the Irish Folklore Commission’s collections

In 1970 the world-renowned Irish Folklore Commission was disbanded and reconstituted the following year in University College Dublin (UCD) as the Department of Irish Folklore. The educational authorities who proposed this transfer hoped that the Commission’s archive as well as the academic study of folklore would blossom in an academic milieu, but within a decade there were signs that UCD was not the ‘safe haven’ for these collections that some believed it would be. Today, more than four decades after the establishment of the Department of Irish Folklore, developments within UCD (involving the reorganization of faculties, departments and teaching), have brought about a situation where not only is the future of folkloristics as an academic discipline in UCD in the balance, but the very integrity of the Commission’s collections is threatened.

My paper will sketch the turbulent history of the collections of the Irish Folklore Commission in their new home, and then go on to discuss how these collections can best be utilized in future. State funding for the systematic collecting of folklore in the young independent Irish state was initially provided in the hope that collecting folklore in Irish would help support the state’s unsuccessful efforts to restore the Irish language. Not only was Irish not restored, the areas where it was then spoken have shrunk and the future of Irish as a spoken vernacular is in the balance. In my paper I will argue that the future of the Collections amassed by the Irish Folklore Commission, and indeed of the academic discipline of folklore in UCD, depends, to a large extent, on the future of the Irish language itself and that irrespective of the fate of folkloristics in UCD these collections are, perhaps, equally valuable as a record of vernacular Irish than they are as a repository of oral tradition.


Lina Būgienė, Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, Vilnius, Lithuania

Folklore Fieldwork as Reflection and Stimulus of the Disciplinary Change: a Lithuanian Case

Folkloristics is unique as a discipline that creates its own subject, which it largely does by fieldwork. Strategies used for accumulating materials and purposes of conducting fieldwork in general, as well as various ways of establishing of what is and what is not recorded may be quite illuminating as a way of defining the condition of the discipline itself. Moreover, concerns and demands associated with fieldwork, as well as technical progress of the recording means are among the most powerful instigators of the theoretical development of the folklore studies. In this paper, fieldwork strategies used in Lithuania during soviet times will be examined and compared to the current ways and methods. The crucial change that is ascertained to have occurred in Lithuanian folkloristics in the course of the last several years is well reflected in the altered notion of the folklore text itself and also in the radically transformed attitudes to the material collected and the informants approached. The great experience in conducting fieldwork and dealing with all the related issues, such as processing of the recorded materials (e.g. transcribing, editing, archiving, publication etc.) is maintained to be an essential advantage of folkloristics, and one that other disciplines can definitely benefit from.


Dace Bula, Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia

Sustainable Folkloristics: a Recourse to Nostalgia?

Unlike authenticity or identity, the concept of nostalgia has not figured in the attempts to formulate the essence of folkloristics by one principal key-word. Nostalgic interest in an idealized past has been attributed to the disciplinary legacy that deserves a reflexive critique. Based on recent interdisciplinary re-evaluation of nostalgia as a creative and critical mode of thinking, a productive force, a valid way of approaching the past, the paper reconsiders the share of folkloristics in the study of nostalgia, understood as a cultural practice and not a product of scholarly construction.


Coppélie Cocq HUMlab / Umeå universitet och Fredrik Skott, Institutet för språk och folkminnen

“Party på Blåkulla” – Digital vernacular practices and folkloristics

In 2011, about 350 years after the time of witch trials in Sweden, an invitation for taking part in a witches’ sabbath spread on Facebook. Almost 120 000 participants, mostly women, registered to the Facebook event, and more than 13 000 wrote that they will maybe join the event. Based on this Facebook event, this paper discusses folklore in social media and how traditional tales are told and retold, shaped and reshaped and adapted to a new medium.

Bearing in mind the place of folklore in our contemporary media landscape and the emergence of new digital practices, we believe that folklorists have an essential role to play in studying these practices and their implications. For instance, in what ways can social media be an arena for (re)-telling, transformation and research of traditional legends? Based on this case-study of the Facebook event Party at Blåkulla, we will discuss how folkloristics and folklore scholars can contribute to new insights in the understanding of digital culture through the study of core concepts in our field: tradition, context and communication.


Georg Drakos

Chronic pain, medicine and folklore

Can folklore offer tools to manage chronic pain? The reason I ask the question is that I as a researcher on folklore have followed an experiment in Sweden called ”Culture on prescription”. A group of patients suffering from chronic pain were invited to participate in a range of activities led by cultural educators. The pilot project included activities in a variety of art forms, such as pictorial art, sculpture, literature, music, dance, singing, and crafts. In my presentation, I want to discuss the impact of the patients’ own performances and their using of various media. In particular I will problematize the participants’ ability to master their own pain by shifting one’s own subjectivity of everyday life into new worlds formed in art experiences or own creation.

Based on a performance-oriented approach, I analyze how the transformations of a painful body can be understood in terms of different attitudes to time and space as structuring elements in a double sense. On the one hand time and space in general structure our actions. When a person’s life world is dominated by pain and suffering, one could say that a person’s actions are fixed in definite relationships between temporal and spatial practices such as may be reflected in the difficulty to step out of your own bed or move between the two locations. On the other hand, other time-space relations will be created when the same people moving between different states and contexts using expressive forms of communication. With that kind of approach I want to try to answer my initial question.


 Jonas Engman, Nordiska museet

Contextualizing Folklife and Folklore Archives – Neonationalism, and the Popularization of Heritage

This paper examines political dimensions of folklore archivization in contemporary Sweden. When archivists approach topics once central to the Swedish welfare state of the past—e.g. the celebration of Christmas and Midsummer—important political implications arise. The cultural and racial underpinnings of such traditions take on new significance in the context of contemporary multicultural Sweden: the Christmas elf is blond and Scandinavian, bringing the joys of consumption to a prosperous, white, Christian nuclear family. This romanticized vision of tradition becomes fodder for neonationalist activists, necessitating a careful response by archivists, one epistemologically, methodologically, and ethically viable.


Jin Feng,Lawrence Technological University

Household Furniture in a Small Mountain Village – the need for folkloristic study in history of Chinese furniture

In 1995, an exhibition of Chinese furniture opened in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, USA. The exhibition is entitled Friends of the House: furniture from China’s towns and villages. It perhaps is the first exhibition of Chinese furniture that is not about the Ming style classics. This unique event illustrates a lack of academic attention on the common household furniture. It indicates that our knowledge about traditional Chinese furniture has been very much limited to one classic style of furniture, namely the Ming style, that had been owned and used in history almost exclusively by the gentry class. We had very little idea about what kind of furniture the commoners owned and used in their daily life. In a field study of Chinese village tradition, the author produced inventories of household furniture and studied how the furniture pieces were used. The findings of this study indicate that the folks in the small mountain village own and use furniture very different from what has been described in our textbooks on traditional Chinese furniture. Interviews with villagers revealed profound meanings of the furniture pieces that had never been found in our academic knowledge in art or design history. This paper uses this field study of household furniture as an example to show how the folkloristic approach to study Chinese furniture can make great contributions to our knowledge of the topic in very different academic perspectives. The folkloristic study of household furniture is to study the furniture pieces in their life situations, similar to the study of a life form in its living habitat.


Linda Fleming, University of Glasgow.

Being British, Acting Scottish: historical pageants and the preservation of national consciousness in twentieth century Scotland.

During the twentieth century, the historical pageant was a highly popular form of theatrical entertainment. In the UK, thousands of pageants were organised within an assortment of different types of communities; and reflecting this variation, ranged in size from massive costume dramas that mirrored the grandeur of civic pride in Britain’s industrial centres to small plays held in village halls. But wherever they took place, pageants involved amateur performers – local people and members of locally significant community institutions – acting out tales from history and legend. Thus, the stories told usually commemorated events and characters important within the pageant’s locale. Yet almost invariably, they also carried messages about the nation and reflected contemporary concerns about the strength of national identity. Within the UK, this aspect of pageantry is of particular interest since more than one historical nation claimed the loyalty of British citizens.

This paper will focus on some popular narratives told specifically within Scottish historical pageants. Conjoined within the UK since the Union of Parliaments in 1707, Scotland’s own national identity had been maintained through storytelling – in everything from traditional folk songs to the mass appeal of Walter Scott’s historical novels. Even at the height of the British Empire, tales of uniquely Scottish heroism, patriotism and resistance to oppression were never entirely subsumed within the larger British narrative. Famously high levels of literacy in Scotland had assisted in preserving its national stories, but the strength of the oral tradition in songs and balladry never quite died and the historical pageant became a new and powerful vehicle for promoting the telling of both traditional legends and stories from the pre-Union past within a modern medium.

Examination of Scottish historical pageants has taken place as part of the Redress of the Past project, which has been funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council. See:


Frog, University of Helsinki

Why Folklorists Can Take over the World (or at Least the Humanities): Theory, Methodology and Interdisciplinarity

Folklore Studies, owing to its targeted object of study, is an inherently interdisciplinary field, and the particular disciplines with which it engages vary according to the folklore under investigation, its contexts and the particular research questions or goals. This is symptomatic of the relevance of folklore to other disciplines where folklore as such is often only poorly understood. The theoretical and methodological tools developed through folklore research end up with multidisciplinary applicability. Specialization in folklore and tools for addressing it places folklorists in a strategic position for linking and coordinating other disciplines, a role that has become increasingly important with the emphasis on interdisciplinarity. This presentation will introduce the relevance of Folklore Studies to other disciplines in research on historical cultures and cultural environments as well as the potential for Folklore Studies as a center for coordinating multidisciplinary research. It will outline an approach to folklore as an object of study and illustrate the potential of folklorists in coordinating multidisciplinary research through cases such as the Viking Age in Finland project.


Line Grønstad, Norsk etnologisk gransking at Norsk Folkemuseum

The tradition archives’ present situation and thoughts of the future

Several papers, articles, anthologies and Ph.D. thesis’s deal with various aspects of history, activities and future prospects of the tradition archives but an overview of the different archives seem to be lacking. We are in the middle of the so-called digital revolution where we try to make sense of our methodology, our material and duties that may or may not include a general access for the public, in light of new technologies and new (and old?) challenges. At this point it can be valuable to look at where we are, learn what others are doing, and to see if we are in fact grappling with the same issues.

During the spring of 2015 a questionnaire will be distributed to the active tradition archives in the Nordic and Baltic region mapping the present day situation. Questions include plans and hopes and ideas for the future as well as descriptions of status quo. This paper offers an overview of the results from the questionnaire. The aim is to provide grounds for thinking ahead, operating together and strengthening our field of methodology, that is, if the responses show that the archives see an active future ahead.


Anders Gustavsson, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, IKOS, University of Oslo, Norway

Folkloristics in the light of auto-ethnography

Folkloristics is also useful in diachronic research when the object of study is described either in terms of innovation (as in my study of learning to cycle), continuity (as in my study on the folk perception of death and dying), or of revitalization (as in my studies on the Forest-Finn culture in Sweden and Norway).

Older customs and modern rituals connected to the life cycle are another area of my research which tackles time-related changes. What survives from the past and what is created in new circumstances? A new study material are stories of deceased persons published on online memorial websites on the Internet. Feelings of grief and shock are expressed more openly, in a manner that was unknown before the 1990s. Projected online, the private sphere has become increasingly public.

Folk religion and folk belief can nowadays be studied together within folkloristics. I will address this issue by comparing the images of afterlife prevalent in the pre-industrialized society with current beliefs expressed on the Internet.

I will finalize by reflecting on the question why folkloristics needs to remain a specific research field when studying folk culture in the international context.


Lene Halskov Hansen, Danish Folklore Archives, Royal Library, Copenhagen.

Comic songs as source material in the study of common peoples humour in the 19th century

Common people’s humour in the 19th century has only been subject to sparse and indirect study in Denmark. Through comic fairy tales, songs and legends we have gained insight into who and what amused common people in the country side, and into what kind of themes and motives they dealt with. But we still lack answers to how they expressed themselves in a humorous way. What kind of humouristic devices did they employ, and particularly, how did they use and combine these devices? What kinds of humour were at work, and what kind of nuances can we find in for example comic songs – if any? Humour is here defined as a broad spectrum stretching from the friendly to the sharply ironic. With these questions, I will focus on how common people in the 19th century converted serious matters into a good laugh, and in this contex also on consistence and contrasts between words and actions, moods and tunes, dreams and reality. Humour theories provide a theoretical basis in the paper. The source material is Evald Tang Kristensen’s collection of comic songs and ballads recorded in the second half of 19th century, including his and other collectors’ comments on the singers’ humour.


Katie Heathman, University of Leicester, UK

‘Why folksong and dance? English folklore in the social work of Mary Neal and Grace Kimmins.’

Mary Neal was a social worker running a youth club for girls in the slum districts around the West London Mission in the final decade of the nineteenth century. Grace Kimmins was also a social worker, running youth clubs under the banner of the Bermondsey Settlement. Both women felt that currently accepted methods of social work with young people were limiting, and wished to experiment with new approaches involving music, dance and pageantry. After setting up their own Guilds to develop their ideas, their search for appropriate material led them both to investigate folksong and dance. The two women took opposite approaches to gathering their material, with Neal tracking down surviving Morris dancers and inviting them to teach the members of her Guild at first hand, favouring a direct transferral of knowledge. Kimmins, on the other hand, looked for songs and dances in printed sources, and compiled guide books to spread her methods of teaching dance and her ideas for pageants amongst other clubs for young people. What the two had in common, however, was a strong belief that English folk culture could and would transform the lives of the slum children who formed their Guilds.

This paper will examine their reasons for choosing folksong and dance. In doing so, it will discuss the early twentieth-century associations of folk culture with nationalism, citizenship, recreation, identity and the English past, and the ways in which Neal and Kimmins built these values into their respective ventures through the use of traditional songs, games and dances.



Tom Hulme, King’s College London

“No Mere Fairy Tale”: Historical Pageantry and the Folk Revival in Dorset, 1905-1939

 Historical pageantry was ‘invented’ by Louis Napoleon Parker, an American-English French-born playwright and composer. What he at first termed a ‘folk-play’, the historical pageant was truly large-scale public community theatre. Its defining feature was the enactment of a series of historical episodes in chronological sequence by hundreds or even thousands of amateurs. Paying spectators packed themselves into temporary grandstands to watch the history of their own town or village performed by the men, women and children who lived there. In the first half of the twentieth century the historical pageant spread rapidly across Britain, as men and women of all classes caught what the press dubbed “pageantitis” or “pageant fever”. Historical pageants, both backward and forward looking, were particularly important in continuing the late nineteenth-century revival of folk traditions, such as English folk-singing or the Morris. Authors and producers also told stories about the history of place and identity in both a local and national context, by connecting regionally familiar cultural symbols, such as food and drink or myths and legends, to more popular histories of the Church and Royal state.

The first and ‘Mother of all Pageants’ was performed in the small town of Sherborne in Dorset. For the next three decades the County remained a principal place for both large and small historical “folk-plays”. This paper will draw on Dorset pageantry to reveal the continued importance of folk traditions in the performance of local identity – despite the more often historiographically noted move towards national identity. Pageantry in Dorset provided a reaffirmation of participatory community spirit, a means of rural tourism in difficult economic circumstances, and a way of raising money for locally- and rurally-orientated organisations, like the Women’s Institute. Immensely popular as well as profitable, pageants are vital to understanding several key aspects of twentieth century history, from the relationships between tradition and modernity to heritage and performance.

This paper draws on collaborative research from the Redress of the Past, funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council. See:


Charlotte Hyltén-Cavallius, Mångkulturellt centrum

Crafting identity – on the organization of authenticity, recognition and identification in sámi craft (duodji)

How are minority identities materialized and negotiated? This paper will present how Sámi craft (duodji) are negotiated and created over time as identification, aesthetic form and political tool. Sámi craft in the narrative of the Swedishness as formulated by Swedish Handicraft has been presented as “the other”. In a governmental report (1918) Sámi craft was perceived as something primitive that should not be included in the development of Swedish Handicraft. Due to its primitive nature any potential development would be a threat. If it was taken out of its “natural environment” or produced in large scale it would only be “tourist craft”.

During the 20th Century Sámi craft has become one of the key symbols for Sámi culture. At the same time the craft is constantly situated within negotiations concerning authenticity, aesthetic form and belonging. An intense discussion within Sámi organizations concerns disloyal competition towards Sámi craft by craft copying the Sámi, made by non-Sami in non-traditional techniques and/or materials. An important point in history is when the craft questions get an institutional voice by the formation of Same Ätnam in 1944, the first nation-wide Sámi organization. It allowed the Sámi to formulate their own craft perspective in relation to and in dialogue with the Swedish Handicraft Organisation. From here on there was a vibrant discussion of what constituted “real” Sámi Craft. The concepts strategy and tactics (de Certeau 1984) are used in order to capture and understand the negotiations between a majority and a minority. This paper want´s to contribute to discussions on the relation between Sámi and Swedish – minority and majority – over time and to the understanding of how identities are materialized. The Sámi situation is placed within a global context of indigenous people and minority studies on authenticity, ownership, immaterial heritages and minority rights.


Sverker Hyltén-Cavallius, Stockholm University

Soundtrackers and vinyl chasers – tradition and authenticity in retro rock

In a recently finished project I have studied how music history, both as discourse and in musical praxis, is negotiated and reassembled in transnational networks focusing 1970’s rock music. The networks are constituted by people that more often than not combine roles such as performer, collector, audience, producer and distributor. For many of them, recordings, instruments and equipment from the period form a toolbox for present-day musical explorations. Sometimes in a highly intentional work to emulate sounds, riffs or melodic fragments, other times unintentionally and only realized in retrospect. The aim of the paper is to discuss how authenticity and uniqueness might be understood within this tradition that openly works with reassembling and resounding in a popular cultural territory that emphasizes uniqueness of talent or geniality. Three aspects will be focused: the numerous associations of “folk” to the 1970’s Swedish rock music, the notion of musical craftsmanship, and negotiations on imitation and similarity. The use of fragments of Swedish folk culture – for example in iconography or music – and the similar associations (origin, authentic, earthy, grounded) along with the valuing of skill or ability as opposed to mere copying or sampling, and ways of arguing about the origins of riffs or sounds, together can be seen as parts of a musical discourse that reestablishes authenticity. Theoretically, the paper draws on studies on popular historiographies, social field theory and cultural analyses of authenticity and aesthetics. To conclude, it is argued that the network might be seen as a tradition in the making – one in which knowledge, values, aesthetics and ethics ascribed to the 1970’s scene, in combination with sounds, melodic fragments or riffs, can constitute resources in the present.


Niina Hämäläinen,University of Helsinki

Emotional pearls? Written representations of oral lyric poetry

In 19th century Finland, bourgeois’ aims of enlightenment were targeted to emphasise the ideas of the modern citizen, who should be able to control physical actions, emotions, sexual behaviour and alcohol assumption. There has also been an emphasis on defining Kalevala-metre lyric poetry as representation of decent emotions of common people. The link between particular feelings and rural people has been historically, ideologically and emotionally constructed in relation to representational practices of oral tradition. Further, it has disregarded other emotions and representations of oral tradition.

The Kanteletar, an anthology of oral lyric poetry, published in three volumes in 1840 and 1841, has been considered to represent the essence of oral lyric poetry, its sorrowful voice. It is the most important lyric anthology of 19th century Finland. Published in a time period when most of the written literature was in Swedish, the Kanteletar has widely affected development of written poetry and art. Besides, it has played a crucial role in constructing Finnishness, the ideals of Finnish-speaking folk and its tradition. Regarding diverse recorded material of the Kalevala-metre lyric poetry as well as written publications based on the material, the paper will examine perceptions of the oral lyric poetry by asking what kinds of knowledge and of emotions of oral lyric has been transmitted and foregrounded through the nationally respected anthology, the Kanteletar.


Karin Högström, Department of Ethnology, Stockholm University

Expressive forms in motion

Expressive forms are often associated with certain places or nations, or with certain groups of people categorized by nationality, ethnicity, age, social class or sexual orientation.

Since my dissertation on Middle Eastern dance in Stockholm (2010), I have a continued interest in expressive forms in motion. What happens when music and or dance associated with a certain cultural or social context is performed in another setting, or by people without the “correct” origin or identity?

Such transferred expressive forms are often criticized and considered as lacking in authenticity, since they are performed in the wrong place, by the wrong people or in the wrong way.  The performances are also judged in relation to notions of naturalness, antiquity and consistency over time.

Cultural forms spread from the West to the rest of the world can be criticized for producing uniformity and cultural imperialism. When cultural forms from Africa, Asia or Latin America are adopted by Westerners, the performers are often criticized for cultural appropriation or exotization.

This critique is important and may often be justified, given the unequal distribution of power and recourses in the world.  However, there is a weakness in this line of argument, since it rests on the apprehension that cultural forms have “natural” connections to certain people and particular places. Taken too far, this argument contradicts the idea of cultural identities, nationality and ethnicity as social constructions, possible to change. It also contradicts the notion of globalization and the flows of people, information and culture.

Regardless if the inspiration goes from the West to “the Rest” or in the opposite direction, cultural forms are most often received in creative ways, mixed and transformed into new, local varieties. These new esthetic expressions may entertain, please or provoke. There may also be further implications, since expressive forms and performances contribute to creating, challenging and recreating communities as well as antagonisms.


Elena Iugai, Vologda Institute of Business, Vologda, Russia.  The Russian funeral lamentation Lamentation is a ritual folk genre accompanying funeral rite. The first Russian chronicle (beg. XII c.) contains mention of lamentation. The lamentations have been collected by folklorists and amateurs since XIX c. till nowadays. During the XX c. scholars of different disciplines studied this genre. The main aspects of the lamentations, the rite sense, the melody and text, were researched respectively by the ethnography, musicology and philology. But in practice all this aspects are mixed both in life and in papers. I would like to present the philological and folkloristic view of the lamentation. From this point of view, lamentation is a morning with an improvisational poetic text containing a great deal of formulas. The term “formula” is used as а stable combinations of words in folklore texts, which often has a symbolic sense. The North Russian lamentations are in focus of my research. The Data base and the Vocabulary of Formulas, made by the author, form the material of the papers. The methods of statistic, structural and semantic text analysis are used. The units of the Vocabulary can be divided into semantic groups: the world of human (man-made things, human body and mood, society, sacred submission), the world of nature (animals, plants, landscape), the chronotop. The metaphors of any level of this list can comply with the deceased, orphan, the other living and other deads, the world of living and the underworld. For example, the orphan children are called the underripe berry and the deceased father can be called the dry root. The question of memory and remembering is: which formulas are saving and which are forgetting? What elements of the lamentation texts are the most stable? And primarily this formal analysis of the lamentation helps making conclusions about the text structure, which is one of the main goals of folkloristics.


Kashif Jamil, Department of History and Pakistan Studies, Forman Christian College University Lahore. Pakistan

Folklores as supporting tool: A case study of Cholistan Desert and Punjab

Folklores consists of legends, popular beliefs, stories, tall tales, customs, they are the traditions of a culture, subculture, group, or organizations. Folktale is a general term for different varieties of traditional narrative. The telling of stories is universal and folklore is common to basic and complex societies alike.

This research paper is an attempt to highlight the role of folklorist in historical and cultural studies of Pakistan. It also shows how society (local tribal) adopted it in their daily lives. It put lights on how folkloristic provided background to other disciplines for instance in history, politics, culture and religion. Local story tellers and folklorists are interviewed.

This paper focuses how the culture/belief of Cholistan Desert and Punjab province is patronized on the bases of folklores & what role was played by folklorist? This paper is based on oral history and interviews however secondary resources are also used where necessary.


Hanna Jansson, Institutionen för etnologi, religionshistoria och genusvetenskap, Stockholm University

”Keep up the writing so I can dream away.” Readers’ comments on cruising sailors’ online storytelling.

 Cruising sailors’ ongoing and online storytelling is closely followed by their readers. Back home their relatives, friends and complete strangers await new updates, and new letters or blog posts from the crews. Through blog comments and greetings in digital guest books, the readers confirm that the serial stories are much appreciated. They read them to keep themselves updated on the wellbeing of the crews; to help them plan their own future journeys; or to take a break at the office and dream away.

In my paper I discuss the reader’s comments and how they confirm the crews as admirable, adventurers, role models and heroes. The readers’ response establish the hermeneutic circle of travel writing, as the sailors’ stories inspire others to cast off and let go of life ashore – and to tell of their journeys in their turn.

Continuously updated blogs and home pages offer an opportunity to study storytelling as an ongoing process. In my PhD project I study four crews’ online travel writing, where they tell of ongoing journeys to the Caribbean and Antarctica.

The aim of the study is to investigate the relationships between storytelling, stories and the ongoing events which are the stories’ plots. The cruises the crews tell of are also the contexts for the storytelling. From this follows certain specific contextual conditions for the storytelling, which affect the stories’ form and content, and how the journey as a project is represented.



Lars Kaijser, Stockholm University

Public aquariums, staged natures and the representation of marine animals. On narratives of nature and genres of aquatic environments.

Public aquariums have been around since the midst of the nineteen century. Since then the aquariums have combined a drive to entertain and amuse with an ambition to inform and educate on of aquatic environments and marine animals. The aquarium of today offers natural habitats, lectures, guided tours, film-shows, sleep-overs and shopping possibilities. It provides a multi-sensuous experience where nature is staged with props, lights and sound. The modern public aquarium is at the same time a research center working actively with environmental issues. They are an important link distributing and connecting environmental research and knowledge to the public.

The paper addresses the question of how nature is staged and narrated at public aquariums. It will show how notions of nature and animals are displayed and narrated through a merge of science and a use of images and stories from a globally spread popular culture (like Finding Nemo, Jaws or Happy Feet). In the presentation the aquatic habitats will be discussed as aesthetic genres of nature (commonly the deep sea with the giant creatures of the sea, the coral reef with colorful fish and the rain forest with piranhas and crocodiles.). It will be shown how different sets of keys (in a Goffman-sense), both material and immaterial, are used to stage these habitats and how they materialize cultural conventions of nature and animals.


Elena Karachkova, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

Oral Traditions About The Past in Contemporary Rajasthan: Performances and Purposes

This presentation is based on field research among four ethno-confessional communities (Rajputs, Jains, Muslims and Meenas) of Rajasthan (India), who currently reside in towns and villages, situated within the boundaries of the former Jaipur Kingdom. The goal of this long-term study (2003 – 2010) was to explore the phenomenon of collective historical memory. In semi-literate communities of Rajasthan, just like elsewhere in India, oral traditions about the past remain the main mode of collective memory construction and communication.

In his famous study Oral Tradition as History Jan Vansina defines oral traditions about the past as “verbal messages, which are important statements of the past beyond the present generation”. He also stresses that, being messages about the past, oral traditions are at the same time commentaries to existing situations, such as a community’s current status quo, its position on the regional scale of caste hierarchy, etc. At the end of the day Images of the past, transmitted by oral traditions, determine social and political behavior of a given community. And here, I argue, lies the main reason of why I studied folklore.

In Rajasthan this specific type of folklore constitutes a separate genre – bat – inspirational and educational narratives about heroic deeds of prominent ancestors, perceived by the narrators and listeners as history (itihas – literally: “the way it was”). I shall discuss a case of bat performance in a Meena village by a professional narrator, belonging to Jaga caste. The presentation shall be accompanied by a slide-show.


Marja-Liisa Keinänen, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, Section of History of Religions, Stockholm University

Folk Belief Research in Sweden: New Challenges and Perspectives

After a period of fading interest from Swedish folklorists at the latter part of the twentieth century, folk belief has recently, increasingly, caught the eye of researchers in such fields as History and Archaeology. Among historians of religion, particularly in Stockholm, interest in folk belief research has been relatively constant, although currently on the increase. As far as I can see, one reason for the lack of interest in folk belief research among Swedish folklorists is undoubtedly the legacy of Carl Wilhelm von Sydow, his over-rationalising view of folk beliefs and his labelling these as mere survivals or imaginative scholarly constructs. A further reason would be the prevailing, highly critical view of old archive materials and the methods used to gather them. The collections are regarded as hopelessly idealised, National Romantic constructs of primitivised peasant traditions. These often fragmentary and de-contextualised archive materials do indeed offer a real challenge for folk belief scholars of today but, instead of abandoning these problematic data, research should develop source critical tools and examine the materials in the light of recent theory in the study of vernacular and indigenous religions. The aim of my presentation is to examine how folk belief research that is based on nineteenth and early twentieth century archive materials can benefit from the recent findings in the aforementioned fields.


Sarah Holst Kjær, Agder Research, Dep. of Innovation, Kristiansand, Norway

Tourism industry as the last folklore-protector

Cultural folklore festivals with costumes, dances and parades; traditional and ‘exotic’ folklore-beliefs manifested as fairytales, myths or legends; mythical creatures such as trolls, witches or mermaids are, in the Scandinavian regional tourism industry, ‘best-selling opportunities’ or a cultural heritage which can be taken advantage of commercially: Cultural folklore represents extensive and complex ways to identify ourselves and in this sense it is perceived as identity markers and icons for social, aesthetic and cultural meaning-making processes in a touristic cultural encounter.

Working with the regional tourism industry doing commissioned ethnography includes both field work and folklore studies in the sense that instrumentalising cultural folklore – or creating folklorism – means converting cultural content into place-identity, storytelling, marketing, experience-product and souvenirs. Several hundred years, which often form the back curtain to the (in)tangible cultural heritage, enrich and co-create the product, attraction and destination in such a way that the imagination of the authentic, unique, real and true is formed. Thus, cultural folklore is the meaning-making content which the tourism industry package and sell.

In this paper it is discussed how the Norwegian regional tourism industry put cultural folklore into commercial use as identity markers of the topographical and local landscape. Using examples from field-work ethnography in the tourism industry it is analysed how folklore is handled, evoked and instrumentalised in order to create a destination.


Audun Kjus, Norsk Folkemuseum / Norsk etnologisk gransking 

Why and how we will return with a vengeanceThe digital revolution and the tradition archive

I work at the tradition archive called Norwegian Ethnological Research, and the paper is a case study of this particular institution, but the aspects of the discussion will be recognizable in other settings. I will argue that access to documentation of traditional knowledge is more in demand now than it ever has been, and with the digital revolution the possibilities for constructing a sound and useful tradition archive are better than ever. First I will present some of the stronger answers to the question: why do we run a tradition archive? The reasons are identified historically, and I will consider how they blend and how they differ and to what extent they matter today. Then I will address the identified purposes with a suggestion for how a multi institutional, project based and user oriented tradition archive migth function and what it might look like in order to be usefull, wanted and good in our present situation. The digital revolution carries important new demands for extended popular access to the sources for knowledge. Democratic governments welcome this development as it provides new pathways for broad participation in shaping how we perceive our own society. To make visible the values in the lives we live in our culturally multi faceted world – also the varieties within the so called majority cultures – is a grand political task, where a modernized and extrovert tradition archive can make significant contributions.


Rostislav Kononenko, Dept. of Sociology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

Irina Shuvalova, Center for Typological and Semiotic Folklore Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia

Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova, Dept. of Sociology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia


The changing role of popular heritage: tradition and innovation in a cultural biography of one Russian folk song

The paper is exploring the connection between folklore, popular music, cultural heritage and national identity on the materials of case study of the transition of a song ‘Porushka-Parania’ from a village to a pop-band and into a commercial advertisement. Firstly, we consider a social history of folklore as a cultural commodity and ideological value in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. Then we turn to a case study of one folklore song from the Belgorod region in the South of Russia. In order to reconstruct its cultural biography (Kopytoff 1986), we use information derived from relevant publications, discussions in social networks, and conversations with folklorists and ethnomusicologists. Being a part of a folk culture, the song has been for ages transmitted by oral tradition of the villagers in a Southern Russian country side; in 1960s it became a part of intelligentsia culture transmitted to specialized audiences, and later a part of a popular culture transmitted by the mass media to mass audiences (Beck 2012). Performing traditional songs entails finding oneself through an individually creative engagement with a style modelled by elders (King 2009) and remodeled by modern performers in various styles. In globalised era this song became a symbol of national identity in a mass culture industry and a popular code in commercial advertising. The type of audiences has been changing along with the particular instances of the transmission that have been laden with the new meanings. As the type of medium has changed, the message has been changed accordingly.


Oksana Kuzmenko, Institute of Ethnology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv                   

Oral Folk Stories About Early 20th Century Dramas: Local Folklore or/and Mechanism of Collective Experience Structuring

The presentation is based on oral narrative texts recorded by the author in western and central regions of Ukraine during the 2002-2014 field research expeditions dedicated to tragic events of the early 20th century Ukrainian history. The analysis comprises oral historic narratives, eschatological stories and stories-memorates reflecting WWI events (1914-1918).

The author has analyzed prose texts on the level of their semantic, syntactic and pragmatic meanings. Given the high communicative inherence of contemporary narratives, the author recognizes that the majority of them have distinct qualities of folklorisity: orality, collectivity, anonymity, traditionality, contextual variation (depends on the performer’s reactions and recorder’s tasks), as well as plot presence, clear emotional coloration which are conditions for artistic value.

Comparing mostly female prose texts with semi topical lyric-epic (songs-chronicles, historic ballad songs) products made it possible for the author to consider them as a creative process of coding information about negative sensual life experience which provides for transmission with further decoding-warning (moral lesson). Persisting plots, productive emotive motives (rescue from perdition, fear for life, physical pain and suffering), folklore concepts (“lost home”,”fear”, “sorrow”, “prayer”) which serve to structure the texts about the times of unrest, are the verbal manifestation of the above mentioned experience. They reflect both the local historic truth of a certain community (“collective historical experience”) and the creative experience of a folklore tradition bearer (via repeated symbolic images, cliché expressions). For the latter, such information is of priority value.

Having distinguished the characters, the author observed that their semantics remains within the general folklore dichotomy “human vs inhuman” where a “human” is a character-victim or a character-sufferer. (S)he acts under the circumstances of various existential tests (front, wounds, captivity, tragic death) and confrontations. Through the deeds of the characters, through their images, one can see mental traits of Ukrainians: deep religiousness, orientation onto general human moral values and aesthetics of good and beauty.

It is stated in conclusion that contemporary narratives are not only a form of expressing universal knowledge of people about war but also an important piece of information worth transmitting. It serves as a directive for assembling the teller’s own life and is a cognitive model enabling to reveal, via language, the experience of existential self-preservation and self-value of a human being.


Kyrre Kverndokk, University of Bergen

Folkloristic contingency – folklore and disaster studies

The crisis of the humanities has been intensively debated in the Nordic counties the last couple of years, and several books and reports on the topic have been published. Research politics is nowadays formulated in a utilitarian language, emphasizing the importance of applied research and measurable research results. Both the Swedish book Alltings mått (Ekström and Sörlin 2012) and the Norwegian report Hva skal vi med humaniora? (Jordheim and Rem 2014) discuss strategies to handle such kind of demands. Both of the books emphasize the importance of cross- and trans-disciplinary research. Ekström and Sörlin suggest integrating perspectives and methods from the humanities into fields of research that traditionally are dominated by science or social science, while the Norwegian report suggests what they term humanistic contingency, though the term is vaguely defined.

What kind of relevance do these suggestions have for folklore studies? Based on examples from studies on Hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attack in Norway on July 22 2011 this paper will discuss how folklore studies could contribute to cross-disciplinary disaster studies. The paper will, in line with Jordheim and Rem, further discuss how folkloristic approaches to narratives, expressive forms and media distribution also may contribute productively to disaster management and critical debates on disaster contingency.


Bryan Levina-Viray, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and University of the Philippines

Putong/Tubong Knowledge through Danas and the Senses

My engagement with Putong/Tubong (coronation) started since 1989. My mother, a manunubong (initiator of the ritual) had a panata (vow) to enact the ritual for me every year. For 21 years of repetitive enactments, I have embodied ritual knowledge (music, movement, chant) my mother has performed in front of me. From the personal, I have collected narratives (through an ethnographic work in 2009-2010, and July-August 2014) from fellow celebrants, the manunubong, and bisita (visitors) of ritual events who create a sense of communitas. I consider it as performance of healing, veneration, and thanksgiving. Now, I am rediscovering Putong/Tubong through the DANAS (lived-experience) and multi-sensorial ritual knowledge it has. I realised that from 1989, not only my sense of sight and hearing have been cognitively participating, but also the sense of taste, smell, and most vital, touch. My presentation will touch upon small narratives, attempting to analyse the ritual as an event itself of transmission of knowledge through the body senses.

Further, it examines how Junior Bangbang Putong owns and innovates Putong/Tubong, not only as a tradition, but as a contemporary pamana (heritage). I suggest that, borrowing the assertion of Grimes, (1982:543) «Ritual and «tradition» are not synonyms. Ritual and creativity are not mutually exclusive», through «ritualizing» processes of knowledge, Putong/Tubong performance event is becoming an exhibition of ownership and innovation – allowing participating communities to dama (to be touch-ed and affect-ed) a contemporary pamana (living heritage), at the same time, incorporating new and creative performative elements.


Åsa Ljungström, Uppsala

Notes and Family Lore on the Owners of the Sandvik Manor Magic Art. Manuscripts: Material Artefacts in Oral Tradition

We need Folkloristics to support creative communication in small groups – indicating what is in people’s mind today or in the past, globally or locally. Folklorists are trained to analyse these everyday performances in their social connections over time, so protecting the cultural heritage.

The development of knowledge in the cultural sciences at large is needed to keep the world bearable for the human beings together. The use of social media must not be left to technical development for the sake of democracy. Democracy needs protection ethically by education. Technology must not take over communication from the human beings IRL, though the Internet is a rewarding field of folklore.

Folklorists claim to recognise the artful forms given to the joys and worries of people on any level, micro or macro – performing narratives, song, music, dance, transmitting master narratives and small stories, life histories, local oral history. Since more than a century folklorists carry the disciplinary heritage of experience to analyse the interplay of human beings, skills of today and the past.

While some fields of knowledge are widened, others are no longer useful. Magic thinking takes on contemporary forms and is a classical field of Folkloristics. A manuscript, previously not known to the world of research, is rendering an opportunity to return to sorcery studies, expanding it to the people handling this and two more manuscripts, their family lives and the environment in the 18th century. As cures of remedy the prescriptions are of no use, but they indicate what was in the minds of handlers and clients. In that respect this contribution is adding knowledge to the realm of education of the vicarage culture and to local history, i. e. cultural heritage. One manuscript contains black magic with the intention to spoil, hurt or kill the Other. There is a passage named ‘On the True Nature of the Natural Black Magic’ on how to win a magic helper, a spirit, and what he can do for his master. The Folklorist colleagues will be asked about their knowledge of the kind.


Jiang Lu, Eastern Michigan University

Du Fu Temple – A Special Buddhist Temple for Elderly Women Believers

Drawing from fieldwork in Liangzhu in Zhejiang Province of China, this study explores a Buddhist temple for elderly women believers in this highly developed suburban rural area close to Hangzhou City. The study covers many different aspects of this temple, ranging from the architectural settings to the religious activities of this particular age group and their impact on family life and society, in order to understand the phenomena of increased religious activities in a time of rapid economic development, totally contrary to the common belief that religious activities will fade when the society makes progress in material terms.

The believers in the congregation are all the women who have passed their menopause. The membership have been expanding for more than a decade. In this rural area, the households are still made of multiple generations. The participation of the religious activities actually releases women of the older generation from housework and transfers the management power to the middle-aged younger generation. Having older women focusing on their reading of Buddhist sutra and participating in all the religious events help the household to achieve harmony. The believers’ husbands are very supportive and they serve as dedicated volunteers for all kinds of supporting work, such as bookkeeping, cooking, shopping, drama performing, calligraphy, carpentry, cleaning, door keeping, etc. This reflects the Chinese essential cultural spirit, pursuing harmony in a family, a community, and a society.

Traditionally, folkloristics, especially studies of Chinese popular religion, are most likely concerned with the communities of remote and underdeveloped places. However, this study shows that this type of religious activities are taking placing in a highly developed area adjacent to a most abundant large city. The wonders of folk life are actually everywhere waiting for folkloristic explorations.


Karina Lukin, University of Helsinki

Lying about the Mythical Past

In the beginning of the 2000s, I conducted fieldwork among the Nenets, a people living in Northern Russia. My questions concentrated on place names, oral tradition and histories. My questions about early history produced awkward questions from my informants that were hard to interpret. The histories, told in Russian, referred to Nenets ways of narrating the past, but could not be told coherently in the interview setting. The community I worked with is experiencing a rapid language shift and people tell their oral traditions both in Nenets and in Russian. In my paper, I will discuss the process of translating Nenets oral tradition into Russian within a methodological framework that combines discussions of oral history with the discussions of linguistic anthropology, Katherine Young’s ”Taleworlds” and frame analysis. This paper shows how a folkloristic understanding of the movement of forms and images can make sense of people’s speech and historical consciousness.


Panel Presentation by Ms. Carmel McKenna, Ms. Jennifer Stritch, and Ms. Tracy Fahey

Affiliation: Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), Limerick, Ireland

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Irish Contemporary Culture as a Reflector of Folkloristics

This panel will examine Irish contemporary culture from an interdisciplinary perspective as a reflector of folkloristics. The panel will consider the re-presentation of tropes and themes of Irish folklore and folk practices through the various lenses of step-dance, mourning culture, and fine art. It will also consider how these disciplines evolve through both structured forms and communitas (unstructured communities), and how this evolution gives rise to new models of folklore which hybridise with other cultural forms of narrative and expression that enrich the tradition of folklore in Ireland.


Paper 1: Betwixt and Between: (Mis)appropriating ‘Irish’ folk dance to re-present the ‘Wearing o’ the Green’ (Ms. Carmel McKenna)

Research into the history of Irish step-dance has only recently begun to emerge in academia (see, for example, Foley, 1988, 2012, and 2014), however little attention has yet been paid to the role of the Congress of Irish Dance Teachers (An Comhdháil na Múinteoirí le Rincí Gaelacha Teoranta known as An Comhdháil) in shaping contemporary Irish step-dance practice, or to the underlying reasons for the formation of this organisation. This paper seeks to partially redress that balance.

The paper begins by briefly examining the role played by the Gaelic League in re-presenting Irish step-dance as one element in the creation of “… an official cultural ideology which was arguably hostile to much of the real culture of the community” (Garvin, 1987, p.78). The role of the Irish Dancing Commission (An Coimisiúin le Rince Gaelacha known as An Coimisiúin) under the auspices of the Gaelic League in shaping the form and content of step-dance practice in the period following the Irish War of Independence is also probed.

In the context of shifting power relations and calls for increased employee voice within the wider Irish societal context during the 1960’s and 1970’s, current research conducted by me on An Comhdháil suggests that An Coimisiúin acted as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ in seeking to retain a state of what Turner (1986) referred to as “betwixt and between”. The research also suggests that this perceived liminal state was broken only when a significant proportion of members of the then relatively unstructured Irish step-dance community formed An Comhdháil in 1970. The paper concludes with a brief assessment of the impact on Irish step-dance practice both on a national and international scale arising from the establishment of An Comhdháil.


Paper 2: Death Becomes Us: Folklore and Participation in Modern Irish Mourning Rituals (Ms. Jennifer Stritch)

Ireland has been described as a country that is comfortable with death and mourning rituals. Death “seems to enjoy an almost casual pre-eminence” (Taylor, 1990, 175) in the national psyche and in mourning rituals such as the wake/removal, funeral mass, burial and Month’s Mind. While there may not be the extended and lengthy mourning rituals seen in other societies, the Irish appear to exercise a communal understanding of death in which virtually all members need to participate and attend. Although Aries (1981) described the changing consideration of death in western society as becoming more individual and private, the Irish have maintained the communal and social aspects of mourning.

Respect for the dead and attendance at funeral rites has a strong connection in Irish folklore tradition. Wakes or removals, which take place after death and preparation of the corpse, have been recorded going back as far as pre-Christian times. In the past the corpse was laid out in the family home for a number of days, with neighbours, friends and relatives visiting to pay their respects through prayer in front of the body and then enjoying food and drink while offering emotional support to the immediate family. This popular custom has been mediated somewhat by the rise of the funeral home industry so that the body would not necessarily be laid out in the home, although the practice is increasing in popularity again particularly in rural areas. National folklore archives reveal stories of the dead returning to chide the living who had not attended a funeral or had not paid sufficient attention to accepted mourning customs (Lysaght, 1998). How does this folkloric history impact on attendance at rituals in modern Ireland, given the weakening power of religion and a more transient society? In this paper I will consider some of the modern ways used to communicate about death and ensure attendance and participation at death rituals, including social media, television and radio, and mobile communication.


Paper 3: The Persistence of Legends; Folklore and the Ethnographic Art Practice of Michael Fortune (Ms. Tracy Fahey)

Folklore casts long shadows in Ireland. This paper traces the influence of folklore on the contemporary art practice of Irish artist Michael Fortune, using the common trope of home as strange space. Recurrent fine art iterations of the Irish home position it as a problematic and contested place; a site of anxiety and terror. The Gothic home in contemporary Irish art practice is often portrayed as unheimlich or uncanny, where the familiar has grown unfamiliar and strange, (Jentsch, 1906, Freud, 1919). In the fine art practice of Irish artist Michael Fortune, home is represented as Gothic; a strange place, a space of cultural otherness, liminality, alterity and legend.

I posit here that the oldest appearance of these strange places is found in Irish folklore, a connection that continues to the present day. The Gothic home in contemporary Irish culture can be seen as a manifestation of earlier tropes of dark domestic space in folklore, transmitted to contemporary culture through tradition, collective memory (Durkheim, 1912, Halbwachs, 1925) and social memory (Connerton, 1989, Fentress and Wickham, 1992). Of all of the sub-categories of folklore, possibly the most germane to the Gothic are the idea of legends, fantastical tales told as truth. To explore this argument, I will examine works by Fortune including ‘The Banshee Lives in the Handball Alley’ (2004-2005) and ‘Bud Mack’s Hill’(2012) and explore his use of contemporary versions of legends to reimagine the Irish home as a liminal space, a site of strange stories, transformation, and cultural otherness. In this analysis I will pay special attention to the different modes of folklore that Fortune embodies in their reconstitution of Gothic homes through stories. I will examine the retelling of legends within the frame of his lens-based work, his capture of a communitas linked by common narratives, and especially his ethnographic practice of collecting contemporary versions of these legends in a way that both links the modern hearth with the ancient hub of tale-telling, and creatively blurs the lines between fine art and folklore itself.


Andreas McKeough, University of Helsinki

Remembering and interpreting the Finnish Civil War of 1918

The Finnish Civil War fought in 1918 between the socialistic “Reds” and the more bourgeois “Whites” led to ~35,000 causalities. Of this number, the larger part consists of Reds who perished in large-scale executions and on prison camps. After the conflict, the nation was divided into two camps, and the victorious side, the Whites, wrote the history of the war. Both sides wrote prolifically about the war in the following years, but only “White” memoirs were acknowledged as representatives of official history.

In my ongoing doctoral dissertation in Folklore studies (due spring 2015), I scrutinize how some individuals, both White and Red, process the war and their war-related experiences in first-person narratives. The data of the study consists of diaries, memoirs and autobiographical texts written between 1918 and 1938. My focus is on how these individuals describe their positions, actions and views in the war by referring to cultural knowledge and how this reflects the connection between subjective “experience” and collective conceptions.

In my presentation, I will introduce my (by then finished) dissertation and its findings. I will especially highlight how the texts of my data can be seen as master narratives (texts by the Whites) and as marginal narratives (texts by the Reds) and focus on the cultural tensions between these texts, especially in regards of interpreting the war. I will also touch on the complex relationship between subjective first-person narratives, cultural knowledge and collective remembering. Lastly I will shortly discuss the theoretical aspects of how to analyze cultural dynamics in the light of first-person narratives. I will do this by presenting and evaluating the theoretical framework of my study, namely its core concept of the sociocultural structuring of first-person narration.


Merili Metsvahi, Dept. of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu, Estonia

Folklorist’s contribution to the study of the history of the Estonian family

My presentation will introduce an example how the analysis of folklore material can contribute to an interdisciplinary discussion – namely to the study of the history of the Estonian family.

Estonian scholars have paid very little attention to the field of the history of the family so far. A praiseworthy exception is the Estonian archaeologist Marika Mägi, who has published an extensive article on the topic five years ago. Before this the women’s position in the family, community and society was almost a neglected topic. If something was declared it was only a short statement that Estonian peasant family had always been strongly patriarchal – the view that started with the Baltic German historians in the 19th century. The most recent overview of the Estonian history also neglects the sources that indicate the important role of a woman in the society before the Christianization (Europeanization) in the 13th century.

One of the most important sources that tell about the woman’s role is the law from the beginning of the 13th century (based on the customary law) that includes the passages about the married wife having the full control over mutual property that will stay with the woman and children in the case when the man wishes to divorce. This and some other passages of this law differ radically from the regulations in the Western and Northern Europe. According to Nils Blomkvist – a professor emeritus of the medieval history from Högskolan på Gotland (nowadays University of Uppsala, Campus Gotland) – the only possible context for understanding these passages is the matrilineal context.

My work is based largely on Blomkvist’s and Mägi’s research. Besides taking into account the historical and archaeological background I use the comparative material collected by the anthropologists from different matrilineal societies. My presentation is going to introduce some examples from the older layer of Estonian folklore that support the idea that the Estonian society was matrilineal before the Europeanization.


Ugnius Mikučionis, Centre of Scandinavian Studies, Vilnius University, Lithuania

The Family Life of the Dwarfs in Old Norse-Icelandic Sagas and its importance for the Relationships between Dwarfs and Humans

In this talk, I argue that the family life of the saga dwarfs is important not only for the image of the dwarfs themselves, but also for understanding of the relationships between dwarfs and humans in Old Norse-Icelandic sagas. The family life of the dwarfs in the saga literature has not received much attention yet. Many of the scholars who have written about Old Norse-Icelandic dwarfs, state that dwarfs are all male, i.e., that female dwarfs simply do not exist. One should expect then that the dwarfs have no family life either. However, in the sagas there are clear counter-examples to such claims. Þjalar Jóns saga, Gibbons saga and the younger Bósa saga mention dyrgjur, that is, female dwarfs, the dwarf-wives. Furthermore, several other sagas (including, but not limited to, Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar, Egils saga einhenda ok Ásmundar berserkjabana and Þorsteins þáttr bæjarmagns) tell about dwarfs and their children, a fact that indicates that dwarfs have families even if nothing is told about the dwarf-wives or dwarf-mothers in these sagas. The human hero meets dwarf-children in several sagas, and there are episodes where the human hero takes advantage of the situation or even consciously manipulates the adult dwarf by being nice towards his child/children. I argue that such episodes not only prove the fact that the saga dwarfs do have families, but also that these dwarfs are loving and devoted fathers. Even more importantly, the family life of the dwarfs plays an important role in relationships between dwarfs and humans in the sagas. The source texts show that the emotional life of the dwarfs is much richer, and the relationships between dwarfs and humans are far more complex, than many previous scholars have recognized.


Mats Nilsson, Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg

 There is no Traditional Dance!

The theme for this meeting is Why folkloristics? To me folkloristics is a study of folklore today as a result of yesterday and as a fundament for tomorrow. My empiric field is dance. My background is as a social dancer and my academic training and thinking is rooted mainly in ethnology (in Sweden).

There is no traditional dance, only dancing traditions and dance traditions. This distinction is important for me. Dance is a good example of continuity in change – in my case, the dancing goes on but the dances are exchanged. And the dancers are most often new but still young. While the dance events are there, they look and smell differently as time goes by and when we change social contexts. I will expand my contribution with empirical examples and, as I think, useful concepts.

So my short and spontaneous answer to the question why folkloristics is that folkloristics uses tradition as a concept and studies aesthetic cultural expressions in context.


Mircea Păduraru, “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi

 Dark Materialities. Fear and Tremble in Romanian Popular Religion

 Grounded on field observation (from Coltu’ Cornii – a village in the North-East of Romania), mainly on personal narratives, my paper investigates local experiences with the Devil from the point of view of Material Religion. The analysis of such a folkloric category (until recently ignored in Romanian Folklore) and the attention towards the network of materialities by which the Devil is given and experienced produce a knowledge that challenges the hyper-optimistic perspective over the topic offered so far by Romanian folklore studies. My paper is also a critique of the understanding reflexes of Romanian ethnology in what concerns the subject of popular religion.


Tina Paphitis, Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Folkloristics in/as Public Archaeology

Positing ‘why folkloristics?’ echoes the existential questions faced by other disciplines in the humanities and social and historical sciences. The question ‘why archaeology?’ is one that is often asked by those in both academic and commercial sectors in the UK, not least framed with a view to legitimate continuing archaeological practice. This is most frequently explored within the field of public archaeology, where archaeologists are required to consider how and why archaeology is relevant to wider society, as well as justify spending, by various stakeholders, on archaeological work. Considering the aims and methods of both folkloristics and archaeology, this paper seeks to demonstrate why folkloristics is a crucial component of public archaeology, since it seeks to understand and facilitate public engagement with the past and its material remains in the present, which can be reflected in the folk narratives and other practices of various social groups. This paper will present the approaches and results of recent research into the historical and contemporary folklore of archaeological sites and landscapes, employing folklore as a form of archaeological data and theoretical perspectives within folkloristics as a means by which archaeologists can understand how various groups engage with, appropriate and value archaeology in the past and present. In this way, it is hoped that this paper will contribute to the discussion of why folkloristics and its materials has a place in other disciplines and in wider society.



Ulla Savolainen, Folklore Studies, University of Helsinki

The Meaning of the Form: The Case of Historical Present in the Autobiographical Writings of the Finnish Karelian Evacuees

 Oral historian Alessandro Portelli has been a strong advocate of the importance of paying attention to the form and structure of oral history narratives in order to grasp the fundamental meanings of personal and alternative interpretations of the historical events. Portelli’s work has been a great influence in Finland in the development of the oral history and life writing research, in which folklore studies has also had a vital role. In my paper, I will first discuss the relationship between oral history/life writing research and folkloristics in Finland. I will then approach the notion of the importance of the linguistic and narrative dimension of personal narratives about the past by analysing the use of the historical present in the autobiographical writings of the Finnish Karelian child evacuees. Karelians were evacuated from Karelia to Finland due to the cession of territory during and after WWII. The analysis of the use of historical present opens windows into social-historical, performative and intertextual meanings of narratives about the past that will not appear if the analysis concentrates on the thematic content of narratives alone. It also emphasizes the quality of personal reminiscing as artistic expression. I will argue that folklore scholarship is in a central role in the development of the multidisciplinary field of personal narratives/life writings/oral history research, and that it is key to better recognizing the rich variety of meanings carried by personal narratives about history.


Torunn Selberg, University of Bergen, Norway Continuity through variation, modern retelling and variation of a traditional legend This paper will discuss how a legend referring to a mythical past is being used in various contexts to day. It is an example of how re-interpreting told-about events from the past give significance and authority to certain contemporary phenomena. The actual story is known from Norwegian oral tradition – and also from Asbjørnsen’s and Moe’s collections, and tells about a legendary island – invisible to everybody except sailors in distress who suddenly find themselves in a safe harbour surrounded by green and prosperous meadows. This legend is an example of a widespread idea about wonderful and happy islands. Even though mythical in character, the islands are also placed geographically, giving them a realistic character. Today the narrative about the mystical islands is used as examples of the wisdom and spirituality from the past to give meaning to cultural expressions from various contemporary contexts; art, alternative spirituality, and tourism. By referring to a mythical past, at the same time localized, the use of the narrative appeal to cultural imaginary, and are used to heighten the qualities of the things and phenomena told about, giving them a certain authority and authenticity.


Irina Shuvalova, Center for Typological and Semiotic Folklore Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia.

Rostislav Kononenko, Dept. of Sociology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

Evgenia Karpova, Dept. of Sociology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia


Folklore as a basis of cultural memory and a source of cohesion: the case of Russian folklore movement

Russian folklore movement, intended to fulfill the task of authentic revival of ethnic and cultural forms, originated as individual artistic initiatives and developed into a wide urban subculture by the late Soviet period. In our research, we aim to show how folklore of the different chronotope is perceived within the folklore movement, giving rise to cultural memory, common values, symbols and activities, which make folklore movement united. We point that there are two main strategies of building cultural memory: one is focused on local tradition and the other appreciates all-Russian “above-local” heritage. The paper is based on the series of semi-structured interviews with several generations of the members of this socio cultural movement and through the studies of everyday practices of its representatives.


Subcultures as a rule share a peculiar tacit knowledge, which is a base of mutual recognition, and at the same time a means to secure the borders of collective identity. In selected case, the value system as well as knowledge base are open for dissemination outside the movement. The practices and identities of the contemporary Russian folklore movement possess such specific features as transparency of its borders, blurred division into ‘us/them’, wide acceptance of newcomers with necessary, though not formalized ideological initiation.


Considering stated above, we have to admit that folklore itself, as well as created on its basis system of values, is not enough to make the community under study cohesive. In paper we highlight how common activities, including grand events, unite folklore movement and at the same time create the tradition of subculture and its actual folklore.



Eija Stark, Folklore Studies, University of Helsinki,

Folklore and Cultural Concepts of Class Formation                                                                    

Personal narratives and folklore of the poor can be treated as a historical window to the formation of class society based on popular experience. There are dozens of old folklore texts that portray people with visual or hearing impairments as stupid or foolish. Yet disabled people are not the only ones depicted with disdain in oral tradition of the ‘common folk’ − in fact, in the Finnish folklore, mentions of unwed mothers or ethnic minorities such as the Roma are also replete with prejudices. Internal boundaries within the lower classes can also be seen in life stories written by non-elites. While the treatment of people traditionally on the margins of Western societies has improved over time, there have been and continue to be small personal narratives and oral lore expressing biases against individuals or groups on the basis of gender, race, age and disability. Social boundaries in the past were drawn not only from above, by the dominant sectors of the rural society who exercised power, but also by the poor on equal footing with other poor.


From the perspective of folklore collecting institutions, the common people were often regarded as one largely homogeneous group: in Finland they were Finnish speakers, poor and illiterate, but at the same time, they were believed to be bearers of the authentic oral poetry and myths of their forefathers. However, the common people did not use folklore and narrate their life-stories for building nationalist ideologies. Instead, oral culture was a way to reflect upon the subjugation people experienced in their underprivileged, often competitive situations within their own social groups. Modes of discrimination were expressed because they existed in the daily social interaction. For this reason, present-day researchers have no substitute for the oral-historical knowledge ‘from below’ encapsulated within folklore and common people’s life stories.


Eila Stepanova, University of Helsinki

The Register of Karelian Lamenters. Advancing

Russian and Finnic laments as a primordial genre of folklore have been an object of interest especially since the 19th century. As a result of this interest, there is now a corpus of thousands of texts, recordings and videos in different archives across Northeast Europe. However, research on laments was slow to develop owing to different factors. Research emphasis was placed on great national narratives and folktales. In contrast, lament poetry was seen as intimate and personal, overfull with grief and emotions. A key factor was that lament poetry was a medium of expression rather than characterized by reproducing specific texts. This same quality as a medium of expression makes lament poetry valuable material for applying register theory, which has been developed through social linguistics and linguistic anthropology. Earlier applications of register theory in those disciplines have focused on the lexical surface, expressive forms and contexts of language. A folkloristic approach allows a more dynamic and multidimensional view of lament as genre practice. The corpora of lament can be used to develop an image of the register of lamenters with valuable perspectives on synchronic and diachronic variation and change. This paper will discuss this potential and show how a folkloristic perspective on this material not only yields new understandings of lament poetry but also leads to developments in register theory.



Lotte Tarkka, Folklore studies, University of Helsinki

Historical Consciousness and Creativity in Archival Research

Early 20th-century Finnish folkloristics was built on the use of archive materials and legitimated by nationalistic agendas. This apparent orientation to texts, the past and the nation state is repeatedly called into question both from within the discipline and from outside of it, and it is used as an argument in questioning the societal relevance of such research. This paper proposes that a reformulation of the notions of context, textuality, genre, subject, collective, and performance allows for an understanding of the processes of tradition as both continuity and strategic interpretive framing of expressive forms and practices. The multifaceted contextualization and intertextual analysis of large archival corpora promotes a new kind of reconstruction, targeted not at any original or ‘authentic’ form of oral tradition, but at the possible competences and interpretations of the subjects of that tradition – i.e., the performers and their audiences. The resulting analysis on historical consciousness, imagination, and creativity is built on a dual conceptualization of the past. The research strategy focuses not only on ‘the past in the present’ (or tradition as continuity) but ultimately on the past as the present for the historical communities studied. Assessing oral traditions from the point of view of the performers turns archival study into a pursuit akin to field work in an alien culture. It simultaneously essentializes notions of textuality, contextuality, and tradition into dynamic processes of world-making. The societal impact of archival research on the historical consciousness and expressive forms of bygone communities is not based on a perceived continuity between their culture and ours, but on analogical reasoning. For both, the ultimate orientation of tradition is the future.


Roman Urbanowitcz

Local narration and dissipation of locality: case of Aziarki


The report examines existence and dissipation of the local etiological folklore narrative, which is spread among community of the former residents of the demolished village Aziarki and their descendants. Aziarki (lith. Azirkai) – the last Lithuanian-speaking village of the Grodno region (Belarus), which was resettled in 1959 due to foundation of the soviet military base. The villagers were resettled in Poland or relocated over the Grodno region. Few families had settled in the Grandzičy (lith. Grandys) village (nowadays a suburban area in Grodno city), where they have been living as a peculiar community to the present day.


The focus of the research is a „tale“ about three men, who came from Lithuania to establish Aziarki village in the out-of-way dense forest nearby Grodno. In such a form the “tale” was recorded in the 1960s, and about the same form was recorded by us in summer, 2014, from the older generation of the community. Later on, cultural and social transformations of the community apparently also have influenced in the transformation of this folklore narration. For example, we have recorded a variation, where three men („founders“) were „a Pole, a Russian, and a Lithuanian”: this variation was aimed to explain why the descendants of first settlers do ”live in Belarus, have Polish identity, and do [rarely ] speak Lithuanian.”


It also should be mentioned that a number of structural elements of ”Aziarki‘s tale” is present in the narrations of those Aziarki-villagers‘ descendants, who are no longer able to restore the tale itself: the stories about ”three noblemen who owned Grandzičy” etc. The gradual disappearance of ”Aziarki‘s locality” and its’ associated cultural inventory has led to the transformation of the etiological legends.


In fact, we can see how in each generation of the Aziarki‘s villagers and their descendants this narrative (or its’ structural components) performs ”explanatory” function according to the local community members‘ views over what needs to be explained.



Tora Wall

 How to Create a Magical Landscape. The Use of Supernatural Beings in Swedish Tourist Attractions.


In this paper I aim to discuss how narratives about supernatural beings are used in the creation of Swedish tourist attractions, built to give an illusion of a magical landscape. The main focus is the process of making a physical place to visit out of an intangible heritage, and what purpose this place fills in our imagination.


Kendra Willson, University of Turku 

Tradition in and about information technology The study of folklore helps to understand the ways in which knowledge is transmitted in communities and is shaped by as it shapes values and identities. Professional practices in many fields are transmitted in part as traditional knowledge and folkways. Often the practices are accompanied by a body of verbal lore in narrative and other forms (cf. e.g. Tangherlini 1998 on paramedics). One example concerns programming practices in the global IT community. Actual code and programming practices are communicated in a complex system in a variety of media (cf. Suenson 2012). Snippets of code and algorithms move in and out of the private domain in ways reminiscent of, for instance, medieval literature at the interface between manuscript and oral traditions. At the same time, there is an associated body of meta-programming lore – anecdotes, personal experience narratives, legends and jokes – that serves to confirm identities and aesthetics relating to particular types of knowledge, programming languages and strategies, types of education and background. While the intention is for actual code to be reproduced when it is effective, the metaprogramming lore often consist of negative examples, which serve as warnings and allow participants to feel superior to the characters in the stories. By contrast, heroic stories of clever programmers who achieve feats that have stumped others also reinforce the idea of the community of experts as an intellectual elite, membership in which is desirable. Understanding the dynamics of how knowledge is communicated both through code itself and through programming lore and the relationship between these systems may help to improve communication, streamline the transmission of knowledge and improve institutional dynamics. It may shed light on intellectual property conflicts. It has the potential to help address issues of access and acceptance in programming culture that have created barriers to entering the technical field.