Research project funded by Academy of Finland 2014–2017
University of Helsinki, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies
Principal Investigator: Academy Research Fellow Kirsti Salmi-Niklander (Title of Docent in Folklore Studies)
Researchers: Anne Heimo, Anna Rajavuori, Päivi Salmesvuori, Mikko-Olavi Seppälä, Sami Suodenjoki
The multi-disciplinary research project focuses on performative and oral-literary practices in the early 20th-century Finland, created by the social and political struggles and negotiations which revolutionized the Finnish society during this period. These processes affected the everyday life of the rural population, reflecting the fragmentation of Finnish society. Modernization and mass literacy created new cultural forms, which utilized the both oral and literary, modern and traditional means of expression. Traditional institutions such as the church and the local officialdom defended their authority, but were challenged by new political and religious movements and created platforms for interaction.
The project will develop new approaches to the modernization of Finnish society by bringing together methodologies, source materials and theoretical discussions which characterize folklore studies, history and theatre research. We will study the following questions: How did the traditional practices of oral performance and manuscript media continue to function and carry meaning after the expansion of print culture? How did they legitimate and support the ideological messages of declining and rising institutions and movements? How were vernacular and modern elements utilized in the creation of these new means of communication?
Our most important methodological issue is how to study oral performances with historical archival materials: the research team will approach this challenging task through narrative and genre analysis, and with different research materials: folklore and oral history collections, printed and hand-written newspapers, official documents and private archives. Project members focus on different kinds of performative and oral-literary practices: political agitation and theatre, preaching, political rumours, and hand-written newspapers.