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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Collective creativity in everyday life: civil activity between hegemonic structures and flows of ideas

Location Jakobi 2, 106
Date and Start Time 03 July, 2013 at 10:30


Tiina-Riitta Lappi (Migration Institute of Finland) email
Pilvi Hämeenaho (University of Jyväskylä) email
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Short Abstract

By focusing on collective creativity and civil activity,our aim is to discuss how joining together individuals' common interests and collectively acting upon them in the context of everyday life transforms cultural practices and social landscapes.

Long Abstract

Everyday lives are shaped by various hegemonic social, economic, political and administrative structures. In between these institutional agents civil society functions according to its own values. Individuals have various kinds of needs and desires not fulfilled or met by the official support systems or civil society organizations. This is where collective creativity takes place. Together individuals create practices based on personal everyday life experiences shared with others having similar values and ideas about finding solutions for certain critical issues. Unlike the relatively stable official system of a society, informal practices are flexible and loosely organized. Collective creativity may focus on issues such as child care, sharing a common car, organizing activities in the neighborhood or buying food supplies from local farmers, to mention a few. Joining together of individuals' common interests and acting upon them creates new collective formations and social landscapes. By focusing on grass roots level of collective creativity and its implications on people's everyday lives we aim at more culturally and socially oriented perspective towards civil activity and its' current practices.

What happens in the 'shadows' / 'gaps' of the hegemonic systems? Who are the 'agents' involved in varying activities? What motivates people to create novel social and cultural practices? What kinds of cultural issues are at stake when putting new practices into use? What is the relation of such activities with the wider society? We welcome papers dealing with these or any other related aspects of collective creativity in everyday life.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


In this moment it is the best way to do something together: role of the collective blog (ruhnlane.blogspot.com) in the island of Ruhnu

Author: Ehti Järv (Estonian National Museum)  email

Short Abstract

In the presentation I will analyze the community blog, which I consider a part of grass roots level of collective creativity more closely. It provides a platform for the inhabitanst of Ruhnu for further collective cohesion, participation in local life, and communication on behalf of the island.

Long Abstract

The research question of my presentation is centered on the information- and communication technologies (ICT) usage practices of a little community situated in what can be considered as the periphery of Estonian society. The island of Ruhnu is a community which can be considered peripheral on the basis of historical, cultural and geographical aspects. This has had a great influence on the communication between Ruhnu and the mainland.

The presentation is based on materials from a master's thesis, in which the examination of ICT usage practices and its influence for the island of Ruhnu is covered much more broadly than in the presentation at-hand. The research is based on ethnological fieldwork started in 2009.

In the presentation I will analyze the community blog (http://ruhnlane.blogspot.com/), which I consider a part of grass roots level of collective creativity more closely. It provides a platform for the inhabitanst of Ruhnu for further collective cohesion, participation in local life, and communication on behalf of the island with the outside world. One of the questions raised is the so called new public sphere aspect: how a community blog has become a tool to overcome the periphery situation. However, the community members don't always act in accordance with the norms of the public sphere. Therefore I examine how the community tests the boundaries of publicity in the blog and what kind of self-examination the community applies in order to insure that the members act in accordance with the communal identity.

The art of resistance in contemporary Iran. Creative tactics for a social change: the case of illegal musical subcultures

Author: Federica Calbini (University of Turin)  email

Short Abstract

Due to the strict social control, the life of an iranian is divided between the public sphere, and the private one. Collective creativity takes place in those interstices not controlled by the regime. Art e music become the major means thru which one can express his own individuality.

Long Abstract

Islamic Republic of Iran: since 1979 life of iranians is articulated according to Shari'a, the Law of God. The individuals shape their freedom in between the interstices not controlled by the autohorities and institutions. This is where collective creativity takes place.

The contemporary persian society is thus outlined by a permanent dialectic of negotiation between the individual freedom, and the collective islamic morality.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran music, except for the traditional folk, is illegal. Similarly, every kind of art is controlled by the regime. To publish his/her work an artist must obtain the permission from the Ershad, the department of culture. Every form of art is firmly controlled by the regime, and only the fews labeled as halāl -islamically accettaple- obtain the right of publication.

The other ones, for istance the ones that argue about harām topics such as politics or sex, and are inspired from the West, are labeled as illegal. Given the impossibility to produce individual art, most of the youngsters deliberately decide to skip the approval from the regime; they decide to spread their works of art in many underground ways, which are just parallel to the maistream one, yet invisible and in contrast to the established order. Thus, many iranians find themselves divided between on one hand, a public sphere of their lives, and, on the other hand, a private one in which they can wreak their individuality, far from the oppression and repression of the Islamic Law and its spies' eyes.

Marketing the identity of "singing nation": economic strategies of maintaining the Song festival tradition in Soviet Latvia

Author: Sergei Kruk (Riga Stradins University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper investigates the economic and administrative tactics used by music professionals to motivate and constrain the common people to sing in choirs. What was considered a genuine folk tradition was turned into a professional cultural venue event creating jobs for academically educated musicians.

Long Abstract

Apologists of cultural nationalism argue that the cultural tradition is self-perpetuating. They consider culture rather as a structure shaping behaviour of social actors. Latvians identify themselves as the 'singing nation': singing in a local choir and participating the Song festival every five years is said to be the natural expression of collective identity. Analysis of the archival documents on local level cultural activities demonstrates however that the idea of self-organisation of the ethnic community around the putative cultural values is exaggerated. Whereas there were strong choirs with long lasting traditions of a joint action many people were unwilling to invest their material resources in keeping the tradition preferring singing contemporary songs in small ensembles. Professional musicians and culture administrators pressed the government and management of enterprises to provide the eventual singers with different kinds of material stimuli. Professionals convinced the government that the Song festival was an important ideological event strengthening the collectivist Soviet identity. The generous financial and political support allowed maintaining of numerous amateur choirs which permitted selection of the best groups able to reach high professional standards of performance. The academically educated musicians, on their turn, could satisfy their professional ambitions by composing sophisticated scores for a capella choirs.

This paper returns the social actor in the process of maintenance of tradition. Cultural tradition can not be reified; it does not possess an intrinsic homogenising force. Rather these are concrete social actors who select some cultural stuff, define it as a component of identity and perpetuate it resorting to the help of institutions possessing real powers.

The spreading of daily-life actions as political devices in the face of a multidimensional crisis: the case of Seville (Andalusia, Spain)

Authors: Luis Berraquero-Díaz (Pablo de Olavide University, Seville)  email
Francisco Maya-Rodriguez (Pablo de Olavide University)  email
Joan Vidal-Tormo  email
Javier Escalera Reyes (Pablo de Olavide University)  email

Short Abstract

Current multidimensional crisis in Spain has fostered the spread of collective civil actions and movements regarding everyday-life as a political arena. Ethnographic research and two workshops were carried out in the city of Seville (Andalusia, Spain) to identify and describe them.

Long Abstract

Current financial, social and environmental crisis in Spain has fostered the development and spread of a diverse range of collective civil actions and movements. Most of these already existed before the breakpoint of the crisis but have become more visible as effective alternatives in the face of the welfare state's dismantling. Drawing from the statement "the personal is political" (C Hanisch; 1970), daily-life actions, decisions, behaviors, attitudes, relationships, from individual to collective, are used as political devices to "kick over the traces". Some examples of initiatives are timebanks, consumer associations, urban communal homegardens, collective breeding groups, social and local currencies and "Spanishrevolution" neighborhood assemblies. In this work we particularly tackle initiatives focusing their action in everydays'-life dimensions (eg. care, household economy, employ, mobility, food) and relying on the commons idiosyncrasy. Ethnographic research and two workshops were carried out with key stakeholders in the city of Seville (Andalusia, Spain) in order to identify, describe and map these initiatives. The central topics of the workshops were "sustainance" and "care" as matrixes and axes. Their motivations, discourses, collaboration networks, struggles and challenges are depicted. By doing so, we reflect on the role of these initiatives in social-ecological resilience and commons reinforcement within an urban context.

Viennese collaborative planning and co-housing projects: between grassroots movements and new forms of governmentalism

Author: Ana Ionescu (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses co-housing projects in Vienna, focussing on the tension between ideas of alternative dwelling and non-governmental forms of social organization on the one hand and the state’s intention to promote such projects fostering “social sustainability” on the other hand.

Long Abstract

Compared to Germany, the Netherlands and other Northern European countries, Austria does not have a strong tradition of collaborative planning and co-housing projects. However, a number of such initiatives were realised in the 1980s and the early 1990s. Mostly, these projects started out as bottom-up initiatives and were understood as a critical reaction to increasing bureaucratization and the individualization of households. People usually sharing some kind of common background in terms of their religious or political views joined forces and tried to develop alternative models of dwelling and new forms of community, opposing traditionally established models of the nuclear family and seeking independence from state interventions.

Currently, collaborative planning projects are experiencing a revival in Vienna. While within the last 20-30 years it was very difficult for co-housing initiatives to find sites to build on, the introduction of social sustainability as a criterion for funding social housing has changed the premises of such projects. They are now promoted by the state, which raises new questions. One the one hand, the people involved in these projects usually understand themselves as anti-hegemonic and anti-capitalistic, on the other hand the state is developing an interest in cohousing projects as a new kind of governance mechanism.

On the basis of qualitative ethnographic research for my PhD thesis, this paper analyses how people involved in collaborative planning projects deal with this tension and how they position themselves in the context of this shifting framework.

The value of local culture and everyday life practices for the development of remote rural areas

Author: Pilvi Hämeenaho (University of Jyväskylä)  email

Short Abstract

Practices of mutual help are natural part of everyday life and local culture in remote rural Finland. In this presentation these mundane practices of neighborly help are studied as civic activity that is vital for local well-being and for the development of rural areas.

Long Abstract

Helping others and working together is a natural part of living in rural Finland. The practices of "neighborly help" are based on need to overcome everyday life problems of rural residents. This help may come in many forms, ranging from singular actions like ride-sharing to relatively permanent practices like helping elders with the housework or baby-sitting in turns. Strong communal ties and sense of belonging are often seen as an essential part of local lifestyle. As such, neighborly help can be interpreted as a continuation of traditional, agrarian culture and its communal practices. Yet, the neighborly help of today can also be seen as an unofficial substitute for the official service system.

Finnish rural areas are vast and villages are situated far from cities and services. Providing welfare services to remote areas is costly and difficult for municipalities and the service network is sparse. Often the only help available for rural residents is provided by the other members of the local community. The creative tactics and strategies that villagers use to overcome everyday life problems have become valuable source for administration also. In recent years, these local solutions have been gathered up by various international and national agents. These "Good practices" are applied and used to overcome similar challenges in other regions. When studied from this perspective, the mundane, communal practices of local people become civic activity vital for rural well-being and development.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.