Kirsti Salmi-Niklander is Academy Research Fellow and Docent of Folklore Studies at University of Helsinki. Her doctoral thesis Itsekasvatusta ja kapinaa (Self-education and rebellion, 2004) focused on oral-literary traditions of working-class young people in the early 20th-century Finland. Her post-doctoral project Hand-written newspapers as an alternative medium in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Finland was funded by the Academy of Finland 2007–2009.
In her Academy Research Fellow project (Between voice and paper. Authorial and narrative strategies in oral-literary traditions, 2011–2016) she explores several case studies: 19th-century popular movements and student organizations, Finnish working-class young people and Finnish immigrant communities in North America.
She has been involved in many conferences, networks and publishing projects in the fields of oral history, book history and working-class culture.
Socialist endeavors underneath the Southern Cross. Literary practices of early Finnish migrants in Australia
In my portion I study oral-literary practices of Finnish migrants. In my study I examine a handwritten newspaper called Orpo (Orphan), which was published by the members of the very first Finnish community in Australia during 1902–1904 (26 numbers) in Finbury, Nambour. Orpo was read out aloud at the meetings of the “Asiainedustusseura Erakko” (“The Hermit Society for the Promotion of Affairs”) and all the members of the society were invited to publish in the paper. Although the objective of the newspaper was to document the history of Finbury, very few of the articles, columns and other texts actually dealt with local and everyday issues of the community. Instead in addition to ideological writings on socialism, trade-unions, land ownership and women’ rights, the paper published news, letters, prose, poems, humorous stories, debates and critiques.
I defended my doctoral dissertation Kapina Sammatissa. Vuoden 1918 paikalliset tulkinnat osana historian yhteiskunnallisen rakentamisen prosessia (”Rebellion in Sammatti. Local Interpretations of the 1918 Finnish Civil War as Part of the Social Process of History Making”; published by the Finnish Literature Society) at the University of Turku in 2010. In my post-doctoral project funded by the Academy of Finland (Nro. 250307; 2011–2014) I examined memories of migration and family history of Finns in Australia online and offline.
Currently, I am working as post-doctoral research fellow at the department of Folkloristics, University of Turku (2011–2016). Before this I worked at the same department as a research associate and instructor (2002–2011).
My research interests include participatory historical culture and memory cultures. I am currently the chair of the Finnish Oral History Network (FOHN) and co-chair of the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC), Oral history & life stories network, and a member of the management board of the COST action ”In Search of Transcultural Memory in Europe” (2012–2016). I am also a council member of the Finnish Literature Society.
Agitation Theatre in Finland from 1890s to 1950s
The rise of the labour movement promoted the creation of working-class theatre. Mikko-Olavi Seppälä examines the leftist agitation theatre performed mostly by working-class amateurs. Oppressed by the authorities and rejected by the social democratic workers’ associations, the agitation theatre operated mostly in the margins. However, radical in its goals and original in its aesthetics, agitation theatre offers a highly interesting and so far only little researched area for study. What were the means of political agitation through theatre and with different audiences? How does the Finnish agitation theatre fit in the larger picture of Soviet and European agitprop theatre? Seppälä’s research will focus on case studies with a time range from 1890s to the 1950s, including analyses of individual performances and theatre careers, and collective drama activities.
PhD Mikko-Olavi Seppälä defended his doctoral thesis on working-class theatre in 2007 at the University of Helsinki and qualified for Title of Docent (Adjunct Professor) in theatre research 2010. He has published seven monographs, including a book on Finnish theatre and drama (with Katri Tanskanen 2010). Currently he is employed as acting professor of Theatre Research in the University of Helsinki.
Trance-preachers Claims to Authority. The Cases of C. B. Sanders (North Alabama, USA) and Helena Konttinen (Finland)
Folk beliefs and religious sermons represent some of the most important sources of authoritative information and knowledge in oral-traditional agrarian communities. Lay preachers, among them many women, challenged the uniformity and authority of the priests at the beginning of the 20th century. Trance-preaching (or sleeping-preaching) was a phenomenon known in the protestant Finland from the 18th century on. Together the trance-preacher and her audiences formed a dynamic platform, which provided access to allegedly divine truths for people who did not have that kind of authority otherwise. I will compare in my study two cases, the Finnish trance-preacher Helena Konttinen (1871–1916) and C. B. Sanders (b. 1831–1911); known as “XYZ”) from North Alabama. I ask how these two people of different countries, genders, and audiences established their authority and recreated their identity.
Päivi Salmesvuori, ThD, is Adjunct Professor in the General Church History and Gender Studies at Church History at the Faculty of Theology in the University of Helsinki. She has specialized in issues pertaining on gender, power, and religion. Her dissertation Power and Sainthood. The Case of Birgitta of Sweden was published in the series The New Middle Ages, Palgrave Macmillan. She is also co-editor with Terhi Utriainen in the book Finnish Women Making Religion. Between Ancestors and Angels (Palgrave Macmillan 2014).
In her postdoctoral project Gaining and Keeping Authority. The Trance preacher Helena Konttinen (1871–1916) funded by the Academy of Finland 2011–2013 she studied how and why the poor and unlearned woman, Konttinen became a religious authority in Finland. As a board member in the doctoral programme for History and Cultural Heritage(Faculty of Arts, HU) she takes part in the planning and organizing events and courses for doctoral students. Salmesvuori has always been interested in teaching and learning in the university and in 2014 she was chosen to the Teachers’ Academy in the University of Helsinki.
Socialist agitation as performance in the early 20th century rural Finland
My research project and doctoral dissertation examines socialist agitation and agitation meetings as performances in the early 20thcentury rural Central Finland. The study focuses on the agitator-audience interaction, on agitators’ roles, identities and strategies, and on their conflicts with the local authorities.
In early 20th century Finland popular movements, organizations and political parties considered themselves to be advocates of the Finnish people and of societal progress. As labour organizations mobilised workers to collective action, they simultaneously aspired to create an alternative way of life with its own public sphere that was beyond the control of the surrounding national public – even if the forms were copied from bourgeois society. Oral agitation was a powerful way to influence people’s opinions and socialist agitators were one of the new types of oral performers who utilized different registers influenced by other oral performances.
The workers’ movement in Finland utilized oral agitation widely as a means of propagating socialist ideology in the early 20th century. After the general strike in 1905 and the parliament reform in 1906, socialism spread rapidly among the rural people. The Social Democratic Party had dozens of speakers traveling around the country. Studies on verbal agitation nevertheless remain few, probably because of the lack of recordings of such speeches and of speech manuscripts.
My method of studying agitation performances in the past can be described as scanning through fragmented and plural sources on oral agitation through the lens of the cultural performance framework. The source materials consist of local newspapers and histories, documents of the party organizations, travel stories by the agitators and oral history, which refers in this case mainly to written memoirs, life-history writings and questionnaires. The most important sources are travel stories (oral-literary agitation) written by the speakers and published in a local workers’ newspaper.
I am a 35-year-old postgraduate of political history. I graduated from the University of Helsinki (M.soc.sc.) in 2006. I am writing my doctoral thesis about socialist agitation in rural central Finland in the early 20th century on a three-year-grant from Finnish Cultural Foundation (2012–2015). I have published two articles based on my Master Thesis on Civil War reminiscences, and two peer-reviewed articles based on my doctoral thesis in Reflexive Methodology Newsletter (2013) and in an anthology of performance studies (to be published in January 2015).
Political rumours as the intersection of oral and written communication in the Finnish countryside
During the turbulent period from the 1890s to 1917, the status of Finland in the Russian empire and other sociopolitical tensions created a climate ripe for the circulation of rumours in the Finnish countryside. In his study, Sami Suodenjoki examines the circulation of political rumours among rural inhabitants and the ways in which rumours intersected with the manuscript and print media. First, the study analyses how rumours were given a literary form by the press and the officials, and what kind of narrative strategies and registers were utilized in this process. Second, the study investigates how the news conveyed by the print media and officialdom nourished and structured rumour-making at the local level. Third, Suodenjoki examines the functions of rumours for the rural population. He suggests that rumours provided underprivileged people with a means of performing identities and negotiating their relationship with power.
Studying the popular rumours of a past society is methodologically challenging due to the limited evidence of the performance situations in which they were passed on. Various sources, however, make it possible to analyse the circulation, contents and political significance of rumours in the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Finland. In particular, the study deploys local reports of newspapers, which cover everyday local events. Abundant information on rumours is also given by the accounts of administrative bodies, the written appeals to the authorities sent by ordinary people as well as court records concerning charges of defamation, fraud or seditious activity. Moreover, traces of rumours can be found in oral history materials. The amount of sources will be limited by concentrating on particular localities from different parts of Finland.
Sami Suodenjoki is a postdoctoral researcher specialized in social and political history. His research interests include the labour movement, agrarian protests and the writing culture of ordinary people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Suodenjoki defended his PhD dissertation in history at the University of Tampere in 2010. His dissertation elucidates the rise of the agrarian socialism in south-western Finland by focusing on a shoemaker-activist and his community. In his post-doc project (2012–2015), funded by the Academy of Finland, Suodenjoki examines petitions and denunciations as interplay between underprivileged people and imperial officialdom during the Russian rule in Finland.
Doctoral thesis Kuriton suutari ja kiistämisen rajat. Työväenliikkeen läpimurto hämäläisessä maalaisyhteisössä 1899–1909 (2012)
Vasemmistolainen työväenliike Pirkanmaalla (2007)