Heri012
Exchanging cultural capital: canons of vernacular tradition in the making

Convenors:
Lotte Tarkka (University of Helsinki)
Stream:
Heritage
Location:
A101
Start time:
23 June, 2015 at 10:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

20th-century folklore collection aimed at creating heritage not at the documentation of living traditions in their contexts. Rather than exploitation, this panel examines collector-informant interaction as symbolic exchange of values and texts, and the commodification of texts.

Long abstract:

Collectors of folklore enter their fields with agendas and competencies at odds with those of their informants. Especially collection informed by Romantic Nationalism in the 19th and early 20th centuries was aimed at creating heritage, or a canonized view of vernacular traditions. Accordingly, the emphasis of early field work was not on the documentation of living traditions in their contexts, as it is today. The informants, on the other hand had their own aims and views about what to narrate, how and why, which was not always recognized by the collectors but can be later interpreted from the collected texts, their contexts and co-texts. Rather than simple exploitation, this panel examines collector-informant interactions as the symbolic exchange of values and texts, and the commodification of texts. How did the informant conceptualize the processes of textualization and handing over tradition to the elite? How did the elite conceptualize the informants as subjects and / or as representatives of the folk? Is there a vernacular notion of heritage? How did the making of vernacular literatures and oral traditions into heritage(s) affect the communities in which the traditions originated? This panel seeks to answer these questions by looking at various aspects of the cultural clash implicit in collecting and representing folklore: for example, notions of the text and authenticity, the oral-literary tension, the nostalgic notion of an ever-fading tradition and aims at salvaging it, economic and social repercussions of circulating texts as heritage objects, and the reception and canonization of folklore genres.