Tag Archives: Folklore

Why folkloristics?

In June, Visby will host the international conference Why folkloristics?

Why Folkloristics Logo copy

The aim of the conference is “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?””

Abstracts are already available on the website, showing a variety of interesting contributions to this timely topic.

Together with my colleague Fredrik Skott, I will present a paper about Digital vernacular practices and folkloristics.


The implications of a name change

The International Society for Folklore and Ethnology (SIEF) is currently discussing a change of name.

In the latest newsletter May 2012 vol 10 Nr 1, we can read how “The Board felt that the name was problematic for a society of modern culture research”. The new name suggested is “Society of European Ethnology”. This raises at least two questions. First, what is wrong with the term “Folklore”? Second, what does “European Ethnology” signal, who identifies with it?

Folkloristics is not a separate university subject in all countries – but still, in many – and is nevertheless a field of research with its scientific organizations and journals, and with an international presence in education and research.

Connotations to the term folklore – remains from a political context in a very specific time in history – have weakened as the international field of folkloristics has developed. Even in France where the word “folklore” was strongly stigmatized, scholars engage with a critical debate about the ideological connotations in relation to the reality they work with (Christophe et.al, 2009).

In the newly published A companion of Folklore (Bendix and Hasam-Roekm, 2012), Schmidt-Lauber writes:

“It has become a tradition that scholars of European ethnology try to explain their discipline and reflect critically on its cognitive identity. What is this discipline that calls itself “European Ethnology”? The discipline, from the perspective of which I write, is a so-called “small-discipline” in German-speaking countries. It came to questionable prominence in the 1930s, when it was called “Volkskunde”, but can also look back on an eventful history with many breaks and changes […]. It is a discipline of the German speaking countries – a “German special discipline” as the historian Thomas Nipperdey (1983:522) once described it.” (2012:559)

Based on this definition, the name European Ethnology does not support the wish of the society, i.e. “Our society needs a name that is all embracing” (SIEF Board’s mission statement from 2001)

Another aspect of concern would be the turn from an “international” society to one that deals with “European” ethnology – with the risk to exclude non-European scholars.

The issue of the name of the Society will be determined by a vote, “probably before the next International Congress in 2013” (see newsletter).

The choice of a name is a way to take a stand in relation to the disciplines. I suggest we look forward when voting for the name of the society. The question to be asked is whom the society wants to include and to engage in scholarly dialog with.

References cited

A Companion to Folklore . (2012). Wiley-Blackwell.

Christophe, J., Boëll, D.-M., & Meyran, R. (2009). Du folklore à l’ethnologie. EMSH.


Folklore as political tool and ideological weapon

I have completed an article entitled « Savoirs traditionnels et Traditions de recherche. Le folklore comme instrument politique et arme idéologique » (Traditional knowledge and research traditions: folklore as a political tool and ideological weapon) to be published in L’image du Sápmi 2, edited by Kajsa Andersson, Örebro University. The book is a collection of contributions in French and English by scholars from diverse fields such as literature, archeology, linguistics, anthropology etc.

Very few publications about sámi research have been published in French. What can be found is principally the result of work done in the 70s. A lot has happened as regards both the situation in Sápmi and in sámi research, which makes these sources problematic. Last year, when helping a colleague putting together a list of readings for a master course at the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, I realized how little the students could access about sámi culture in their language – and that most of it was out of date. Therefore, although my academic writing in French is both poor and painful, I decided to make an effort to improve the situation.

My contribution in L’image du Sápmi 2 is a critical historical approach on sámi research. It provides a historical overview of examples where sámi traditional knowledge and folklore were in the service of philology, lappology and other research traditions, as a political tool and an ideological weapon.

Today, we have access to ethnographic descriptions published in other political contexts and it is necessary to redefine their position and value for contemporary research. A critical look at the history of research traditions demonstrates how folklore and traditional knowledge were used in order to establish an authority or for political purposes. Thus, my article calls for a reflexive vigilance about the origins of research about minorities in general and the Sámi in particular.

The book is to be published at the beginning of next year.

For the first volume published in 2009,
I wrote an article about the storyteller and writer Johan Turi.


Master course in Folkloristics

Gotland University offers an Internet-based Master course (Fall 2011) about the Contemporary uses of narratives.

The course approaches aspects such as: Striving for power through storytelling, Negotiation of identities in storytelling, Narrating conflicts, Narrating Mindscapes: oral and visual Storytelling.

The course will be taught by Prof. Ulf Palmenfelt, Prof. Owe Ronström and PhD Carina Johansson.

You can still register via http://www.hgo.se/utbud/hgo/HET802.