EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P008)

The edgy Northern European imaginaries: cultural identity through the looking glass of fabulous ancestors and ludic realities

Location M-649
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00

Convenors

Iain Edgar (Durham University) email
Tõnno Jonuks (Estonian Literary Museum) email
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Short Abstract

This panel analyses the historical and contemporary experience of the Northern European imaginaries and the cultural identities formed through the experience of (in)visible phenomena. The panel will unite the analytical resources of social anthropology, folkloristic and religious studies.

Long Abstract

This panel intends to illuminate the distinctive historical and contemporary experience of the various Northern European imaginaries and the resultant cultural and national identities formed through the experience and study of (in)visible phenomena from antiquity to modern times. Such (in)visible realities are an important part of the cultural imaginary, and personal and collective identities of almost any folk community. The panel aims to study those issues on the basis of Celtic, Norse, Balto-Finnic, Slavic and Scandinavian peoples and will unite the analytical and technological resources of social anthropology, folkloristic and religious studies.

The panel will analyse the warp and the weft of interaction between personal, experiential imaginative creativity and the social and collective imaginary, and the accompanying embodied praxis of a specific set of Northern European identies. Archival and ethnographic studies are equally welcome, as are studies of the making of a communicative personal and social imaginative identity amongst diasporic Northern European communities. How the named mythological 'unconscious' of such communities intersects with immigrant populations, who often have their own visionary traditions and practices, is also an intended theme. The anticipated outcome, indeed the elixir, will be the theorising and demonstration of the creative and specific interaction between personal and cultural imaginative forms and consequent individual and collective identities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"A despised woman and a worshipped singer": the representation and reception of indigenous Seto women in the film "Taarka"

Author: Kerli Kirch (Florida Atlantic University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper uses a multi-perspectival cultural media studies approach to study how the filmic text, audience reception, and political-economical environment of the Seto film “Taarka” reinforce ethnic, cultural, gender, regional, and lingual hegemonies regarding the indigenous Seto culture in Estonia.

Long Abstract

This paper critiques the dominant hegemonies that subordinate Seto (ethnic minority) women living in Setomaa, an Estonian periphery. It draws on the principles of social constructionism, cultural studies, standpoint theory, intersectionality, and postcolonial feminism to examine gender inequality together with other forms of subjugations connected with ethnicity, language, culture, location, and religion, inherent in Seto society. This study analyzes the first Seto film "Taarka", which is advertised as a (docu)drama. However, "Taarka" can also be interpreted as an ethnographic film because it contains various ethnographic elements, such as cultural traditions, historical figures, ethnic clothing, etc. Media texts have a substantial ideological impact on our understandings and they can reinforce or oppose the values of the dominant social groups.

The paper utilizes a multi-perspectival cultural media studies approach that includes the analyses of production, filmic text, and audience reception of "Taarka". An examination of the political-economical environment indicates that the Estonian funding system primarily finances Seto culture-promoting activities (such as the film "Taarka"), which forms stereotypical views of a heritage-related Seto culture. These funding principles also contribute to the unequal power distribution within the Seto community, which empowers Setos who actively promote their ancient traditions. The filmic text analysis demonstrates that although "Taarka" challenges masculine hegemony and traditional gender roles, it nevertheless reinforces painful stereotypes of Seto people, heteronormativity, and Estonian ethnicity's superiority over Seto ethnicity. The audience reception examination proves that Estonian audiences are upholding ethnical, cultural, and lingual hegemonies and view Setos as the exotic 'other' in Estonian society.

A tartan imaginary: cultural identity through the looking glass of the 'Scottish' second sight phenomena

Author: Iain Edgar (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses the distinctive historical and contemporary experience of 'Scottishness(es)' through the study of the tradition of the 'second sight' phenomena. There will be cross-cultural reference to vision, dream and divinatory practices studied within other comparable world cultures.

Long Abstract

In the background of this paper is the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence which will comprehensively challenge and evoke all known aspects of 'being Scottish'. This paper intends to illuminate the distinctive historical and contemporary experience of 'Scottishness(es)' through the consideration and study of the tradition of the second sight from antiquity to modern times. Such a reported visionary and dream tradition is deeply rooted in Scottish folk tales, especially Highland ones. The paper will analyse the warp and the weft of interaction between personal, experiential imaginative creativity and the social and collective imaginary, and accompanying embodied praxis, of 'being Scottish'. The formative role of Celtic, Norse and Christian imaginaries will be considered, as well as cross-cultural reference to the role of vision, dream and divinatory practices studied within other comparable world cultures.

Collaborations on borderlands: defining Lithuanian identity

Author: Vida Savoniakaite (Lithuanian Institute of History)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will debate the questions about attention to different historical situations as important research strategies for cultural identity. It will discuss comparative approaches to ethnic and cultural identity of Lithuanian minorities on borderlands areas in Latvia and Poland.

Long Abstract

The issues of cultural identity in current anthropological theoretical debates in some cases differs from ethnographical imaginaries of my long term research in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Epistemological and methodological problems in my research of Lithuanian minority's identities show the importance of theoretical focus to intimate individual's opinions and situational ethnicity in small places. The research results in different places of borderlands in Europe describe aspects of issues in politics of identity and changing models of ethnic and national identity in social organization.

The paper will discuss the questions about attention to interactions of personal and cultural forms of individual and collective identities as important anthropological strategies for further comparative debates of large issues of identity politics. We'll analyze the different cases of transforming community's identities imaginaries.

Invisible worlds: haunting between sensations and representations

Author: Kirsten Marie Raahauge (The Royal Danish Academy of Architecture, Design and Conservation, The Design School)  email

Short Abstract

How do people make sense of unexplainable experiences, many of which are invisible sensations? And how does the anthropologist deal with this field of sensations that are not represented in everyday language? These questions arise from my study on Haunted Houses in Denmark today.

Long Abstract

Based on my fieldwork on haunted houses in Denmark today, this paper deals with the gap between sensations and representations of experiences of unexplainable phenomena. Often people sense invisible phenomena, as the experiences are connected to hearing something that seems not to be there. This kind of sensation poses a series of problems to the one experiencing it. Firstly it is impossible to find out exactly what you sensed, secondly it is a challenge to find notions in your everyday vocabulary that might cover the experience, and thirdly you might find it difficult to talk to others about it. These problems are mirrored in the challenges of the anthropologist studying this field: How do you make an anthropological analysis of something that is not recognized as real, neither in the surrounding society nor by the people who have sensed it themselves? How do you represent sensations that are there not for all but only for some of the senses? These questions have become part of my work with the project Haunted Houses. The topic of sensation and representation will be given a spatial perspective, since those who are subject to invisible experiences are usually very much aware of their sensations of the surrounding physical location during and after the experience.

Religion and nation: are Estonians the most pagan people in Europe?

Author: Tõnno Jonuks (Estonian Literary Museum)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will study how prehistoric religion has been used in creating the national identity of Estonians during the last few decades. There has been substantial effort to show that Estonians have kept alive the echo of pre-Christian religion, which makes the nation unique in European perspective.

Long Abstract

Already from the early years of studying of Estonian religion a paradigm was settled that differently from the Indo-European nations in Europe the Finno-Ugric people are different - their world-view is more static and conservative, their religion does not comprise agressive male pantheon, etc. This view, largely based on personal preferences and national situation of the early 20th century has affected strongly the way of studying religion during the following century. It has become especially visible during the last decade in the activity of a neopagan movement called Maavalla Koda (The House of Earth Religion). I will study what kind of arguments have been used to stress the indigenous essence of this religious movement and I am especially interested in the relationship of the nationalism of Estonians and the modern view of pre-Christian religion. Although the House itself argues to be not the representative of an official religion, it could be followed how the folk religion from the late 19th-early 20th century (as its main source and inspiration) is changing its form and becoming closer to a doctrinal mode of religiosity and thus heavily influencing the national identity of the present-day people.

Sami culture and laws in the light of Scandinavian Enlightenment in Lapland

Author: Dawid Bunikowski (University of the Arctic)  email

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on how Sami people as indigenous people have been depreciated by Scandinavian states that brought with it Enlightenment ideas to do with the nation state, progress, and Protestantism, and destroyed the traditional way of life of so-called "dark", "dirty" people.

Long Abstract

Sami customary laws have not been recognized since the end of the 18th century. Sami culture was depreciated and destroyed in Scandinavia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even now in Finland, the land rights of Sami people remain unresolved human rights problem, an issue that was highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee. Although last decade the Constitutional Committee in the Finnish Parliament asserted that the right of the state to the Sami people's land (Lapland) is doubtful, yet the recognition of the Sami people to administer hunting grounds and fishing waters remains unclear. The Sami are not lords in their own country. About half of the Sami population in Finland have been forced to move outside Lapland due to unemployment and the lack of opportunities.

"I felt that I was being treated as dirt", says a Sami leader from Norway. The words "The Lapp people are childlike people (…)it is the goal of Norwegianization that they are brought to the maturity of man…"(Rector Gjølme, 1886) were applied to the whole society. Missions, religious, educational programme etc. to these ends, were deemed "ethical" from this point of view, and morally justified.

The closing of borders from the 19th century, the modern education system, language policies, revived Lutheran ethics, and property law regimes from the 19th and the 20th centuries destroyed a large part of traditional Sami ways of life, knowledge, property rules, reindeer husbandry, and indigenous languages. Nowadays the feeling of injustice is strong among Sami.

Sea

Author: Stuart McLean (University of Minnesota)  email

Short Abstract

An experimental poem and video piece, inspired by research in the Orkney Islands, “Sea” combines original material with collaged fragments of other texts to conjure a metamorphic space in which pasts and presents, history and mythology can co-exist and mutually transform one another.

Long Abstract

"Sea" is an experimental poem and video piece, inspired by my ethnographic and archival research on the relationship between art, storytelling and the physical environment in the Orkney Islands, lying between the northernmost tip of Scotland and Norway. It was originally written for the Papay Gyro Nights International Art Festival, held annually on Papa Westray (or "Papay"), the second smallest and most northerly island of the archipelago. The festival takes its name from the folkloric figure of "Gyro" - known as Grýla in the Faroe Islands and Iceland - a giantess combining animal and human, marine and terrestrial attributes. Focusing on contemporary digital, multi-media and performance art, the festival invites participants to respond to the distinctive materiality of the island setting. "Sea" combines original material with collaged fragments of other texts, including folklore, oral histories, Norse sagas, the poetry of George Mackay Brown (Orkney's best known twentieth century writer), economic history (whaling, fishing, oil), military history (the Viking era and World Wars One and Two), and comparative material (the story of Sedna in Inuit art and mythology). Reference is made also to the geological prehistory of the islands and to the prospect of an apocalyptic, posthuman future. Instead of conventional academic explanations, the poem and video seek to conjure a metamorphic space in which pasts and presents, history and mythology can co-exist and mutually transform one another and in doing so to explore the embedddness of humanly constructed worlds within other than human materialities that simultaneously constitute and exceed them.

The world sings back: autonomous religiosity, animism and singing in the eastern Baltic

Author: Dace Veinberga (University of Toronto)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will describe and discuss the world of Estonian and Latvian singing traditions both of which are characterized by animistic imaginaries full of helping, empathetic and playful persons, only some of whom are human and visible.

Long Abstract

This paper will describe and discuss the worlds evoked in Estonian and Latvian singing traditions, both of which are characterized by animistic imaginaries full of helping, empathetic and playful persons, only some of whom are human and visible. The extant historical record tells us that the native peoples of Livonia maintained for centuries flourishing singing practices which also confounded and frustrated the German clergy and landowning class. Both continue to view themselves as singing nations and see their ancestors as singing individuals who held onto a distinct spiritual autonomy as they withstood centuries of oppression and serfdom. The folk song archives of Estonia and Latvia show that through recitative, as well as more melodic singing styles, singers engaged in active dialogue not only with other human beings but that they also conversed with a wide variety of other persons, including celestial bodies, animals, indwelling earth spirits and other natural phenomena, as well as non-material spirit persons who have been understood as deities. Religiosity here is indeed a fabric of tangled and conflicting threads for the people of the Eastern Baltic also needed to conform to the Christian practices demanded of them by conquering German crusaders and their descendants who gradually enserfed them and transformed them into a disempowered underclass.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.