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World of nations: notes on internationalism, ethnic diversity and folklore scholarships in four countries (Finland, United States, French Canada and Solomon Islands).

It is an honour to have been asked to speak at this time here in Quebec. I have spoken here once before, almost exactly 20 years ago. I was invited by a folklorist who was not only international in her background and outlook but also struggled to link together her multiple national and ethnic belongings and loyalties: Finland, the United States, French Canada, and the Solomon Islands: Elli-Kaija Kongas Maranda. It is to her memory that I dedicate this talk.

Tallinn, Estonia, May 9, 1998

On Sunday afternoon, May 9, 1998, I arrived in Tallinn, the capital of the small Baltic republic of Estonia. This was the first of many visits there and I was seated in a bus full of scholars representing different disciplines and countries. We were to be tourists in Tallinn for a day before continuing on to the university town of Tartu. The traffic moved slowly and, as we were crawling through the centre of Tallinn, I spotted great numbers of people -- old, middle-aged, men, women, children -- walking slowly in little groups toward a park. They were dressed in holiday finery and carried flowers. As the bus moved forward, I saw people laying the flowers down in front of a big statue. Then I spotted women, dancing, singing and clapping hands at the edges of the park. "Let's go watch," I said to Russian linguist and poet Irina Sandomirskaya who was seated next to me. The driver let us out, the bus moved on toward the hotel, and Irina and I raced to the park.

For a long time, we watched one group of people after another approaching the massive Soviet style statue and placing at its foot not only flowers, but also pieces of salted bread and written messages. They stood in silence for a moment and then moved on. But the flowers were not allowed to remain at the statue: old women picked them up and handed them to young boys who walked solemnly out on the lawn and arranged them there in different patterns. It was all strange and eerie and performed in silence. There were already several flower arrangements on the lawn and Irina told me that the one closest to us spelled "Victory". Then she reminded me that May 9 or Victory Day -- i.e. the day when the Germans were defeated and World War II ended -- remains vigorously celebrated in post-Soviet Russia and in former Soviet republics. After a while, Irina began speaking to people in the park. All identified themselves as Russians and told her that the monument was dedicated to the Soviet soldiers -- many of whom were Estonians -- who rested in a mass grave underneath. They also said that this particular celebration of Victory Day had gained in strength after Estonian independence. I recalled that around 35% of the 1.4 million inhabitants of Estonia are Russian speakers of whom the majority are not citizens of Estonia.

It was difficult to leave. Mesmerized, we watched the continuous and silent placing of cut flowers into the earth and the women singing, dancing, and clapping hands. Irina explained that the song texts were longing, sorrowful and patriotic. When we tore ourselves away, we saw a few individuals standing in the street silently watching the goings-on inside the park. We concluded that they were Estonians. That impression was confirmed later when the entire group of scholars arrived at the park, now led by an Estonian guide. The group lingered there longer than she wanted to; she was visibly bothered by our interest in an event that seemed to have little to do with the Estonian arts and achievements that she wished to show us. Eventually we left, following her.

To my knowledge, this intensely performed act of commemoration has never been studied, neither by Russian nor by Estonian folklorists, nor by any other scholars for that matter. In the light of history, it is not hard to understand why Estonians have not done so. After fifty years of Soviet rule, Estonian scholars are not eager to highlight the ritual commemorations and other expressive forms of their oppressors. Rather, folklorists and ethnologists are eager to (re)construct the Estonian scholarly heritage and (re)constitute the large national archives and museums that flourished during 1919-1940, when the country was independent. Moreover, at least a few years ago, few East European folklorists would have been likely to regard large commemorative events as topics of legitimate interest to their field. Indeed, until recently, East European scholars have, for the most part, remained devoted to paradigms that are regarded as outmoded in "the Occidental heartlands" (Hannerz 1996:90).

However, scholars from these very heartlands are likely to react negatively to such ignoring of the customs of a large minority, and are likely to wonder if it is possible to restore folklore study in a country and pass by the traditions of one third of its inhabitants. Some would also note that a comparable exclusion would not be openly possible in the United States, Canada, or other "heartland" countries that consider themselves advanced in their thinking about equal rights, ethnic diversity and cultural citizenship. Furthermore, although they may not say it openly, scholars in the occidental heartlands tend to take a dim view of the research conducted in the former Soviet republics and other countries outside the west. To them, East Europeans need to "catch up" with the developments in western scholarship during the past fifty or sixty years.

Issues and questions

During the remainder of this talk I would like to reflect further on a few of the many entangled issues that I have just touched upon. One that I wish to highlight is that nations differ dramatically in the nature of ethnic diversity within their borders, in the diversity politics pursued and in the ways in which folklore scholars understand diversity. Another issue is knowledge production in folkloristics and related fields and the great differences between countries in their premises for and ideals of scholarship. Who decides what is good research, and from what platforms of power do they do so? How can scholars who work in vastly different political and scholarly contexts speak to one another at all?

It is, however, impossible to think about these issues without taking into consideration the two related concepts of nationalism and internationalism. Therefore, I will now turn to some reflections on the debates on nations and internationalism in contemporary folkloristics and ethnology. Thereupon I will supplement these with a few notes on folklore study and ethnic diversity in four countries: Estonia, Sweden, the United States, and Mali(1).

A world of nations, internationalism, and folklore scholarship

In this era of economic and cultural globalization, of enormous migrations, and of intense media networking, the nation state is often called into question: nations are said to be receding in importance. But at the same time, many scholars and thinkers insist that this is not the case. Nations may be losing importance as political and economic units, but they are gaining significance as centres for cultural and emotional identification (Castells 1997). The "great cultural resonance of the national" is still with us; nations are not withering away; they are "changing" (Hannerz 1996:81-90).

Indeed, in certain respects, nations seem just as important now as in the nineteenth century, if not more so. Many are reconstituting themselves or are being created anew: in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and, not least, Eastern Europe. After the fall of the Soviet Union, fifteen independent nations have (re)emerged, among them Estonia. National boundaries are being drawn up at the cost of unimaginable suffering among people who are told that they have no place inside them: they are said to belong to the wrong ethnic groups or speak the wrong languages or adhere to the wrong religion. Despite economic globalization, despite the rising political importance of regions, and despite the many multiply located persons, the world order of 2001 is indisputably one of nations, nations that are uneven in terms of size and power and in terms of the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic complexities of the people who live within their borders(2).

Where are the folklorists and ethnologists in this? Of course, beginning students are taught -- in different ways in different countries -- that nation formation, nationalism, and national identity have been critical issues in the fields from the very start and that folklore has delivered central symbols in the building of nations. Elli Kongas Maranda was fond of citing the observation that "folklore was bore in nationalism and anthropology in colonialism" (1982). Textbook or dissertation writers often automatically acknowledge the beginnings of folkloristics and ethnology in "Romantic Nationalism". They might also take up the uses of folklore for nationalistic and political purposes in the past, not least in Germany. Often, the emphasis is not on the use of folklore for nationalistic political ends, but on its misuse.

But then these authors tend to stop. They seldom bring the discussion of the use of folklore study to promote national causes all the way to the present, at least not to the present in a heartland country, such as the United States. Of course, they acknowledge, at least implicitly, that nations are the given organizational units that folklorists use when they arrange museums in national capitals, locate archives in national libraries, meet at international conferences, or analyze the ways in which folklore expresses, mirrors or creates national characters or mentalities. But when it comes to acknowledging national loyalties and sentiments in their own scholarship, folklorists in heartland countries tend to be embarrassed or afraid to appear chauvinistic. Often they refer to small or (re)emerging countries in peripheral areas such as the Baltic region, the Balkans, Finland, or Ireland. Heartland folklorists seem to be in accord when they assert that openly nationalistic ideologies may exist out there in the peripheries, but hardly here among scholars such as themselves (cf. Billig 1995: 49).

Nevertheless, it is my belief that most western folklore scholars regard themselves as custodians of a national heritage, whether or not they acknowledge it. There seem to be among many folklore scholars, not least in the United States, deep-seated nationalisms and national loyalties that are seldom openly spelled out in individual scholarly texts. Indeed, whether invisible or visible, the use of folklore for nation-enhancing purposes is just as important now as it was in the nineteenth century. What are needed, therefore, are critical and comparative debates that bring this state of affairs and its many aspects into the open.

But, of course, "the national" constitutes only one side of the coin and has never reigned as the sole central issue of folklore study. Rather, by "its very nature the study of folklore requires an international breadth of vision" (Dorson 1961:1). From the very start, folkloristics was not only a study of one's own peasants or exotic others; it also entailed a discovery of the often surprising international parallels in structures or motifs of narratives and other forms of expressive culture. We are all familiar with such formidable results of these discoveries in the gigantic indexes. And this work was not regarded as contradictory to the study of folklore's role in building nations. On the contrary, our predecessors realized that games, ballads, epics and tales could be well entrenched in local or national cultures and at the same time be widely distributed across the earth.

What about today? It is difficult to imagine that anyone would quarrel with the observation that "an international breadth of vision" is as important now as it was earlier -- if not more so. If "the national" is often invisible or unacknowledged in the world's prestigious centres of folklore study, the opposite is true of "the international". "Internationalization" and "internationalism" are promoted in educational establishments all over the world. I do not know of a colleague anywhere who would say that "internationalism" or comparative international perspectives are bad or undesirable. But at the same time, it seems to me that folklorists do not always live up to the "internationalism" that they praise. The situation is contradictory, to be sure. To be an internationalist is regarded an absolute good -- even if one does nothing about it. To celebrate one's nation in one's research is suspect and something to keep quiet about -- even if that is precisely what one is engaged in doing.

Of course, these contradictions and paradoxes could easily lead to debilitating dilemmas. But they could also become challenging issues to reflect on and theorize. For example, if "internationalism" is going to lead anywhere, it cannot be a passive nodding at some general good. Rather, to be an internationalist is to strive to find ways to promote exchanges of ideas across boundaries and to work actively to understand different premises for scholarship and different standards of scholarly excellence.

Four countries

Let me now concretize these observations. I will do so by sketching briefly the history and present situation in four strikingly different countries: Estonia, Sweden, the United States, and Mali. The emphasis of these sketches will be on the study of folklore in relation to the ethnic and cultural diversity within these countries and on the relationships between folklore scholars in these countries and the world outside.


Let me return to where I began, Estonia, a country peripheral to the Occidental heartlands and to Russia at the same time as it is historically firmly situated in European learning and culture. Estonia is the northernmost of three small Baltic states, the other two being Latvia and Lithuania. To the west of Estonia are the Baltic Sea and Sweden. To the east, are Lake Peipus and Russia. As noted, Estonia has about 1.4 million inhabitants; about 35% of them identify themselves as Russians or Russian speakers or are identified by Estonians as such. However, the Russians hardly constitute a unified minority; they include people with Georgian, Kazakhstani, Tajikistani, Belorussian, Karelian and many other backgrounds.

Estonia's history is complicated. For centuries, the country was invaded and ruled by outsiders. During the Middle Ages, the Germans established themselves as the ruling classes: as tradesmen in the Hanseatic city of Tallinn and as rulers of feudal estates. For long periods, native Estonians (among them a Swedish speaking minority) were serfs on these estates. Germans also established Lutheranism in Estonia and, as a whole, they have kept a leading position through the centuries, including the seventeenth century, when Estonia was part of the Swedish empire.

During the middle of the nineteenth century, after the formal abolition of serfdom, intellectuals began working for Estonian independence which eventually came in 1919. In the period between the two world wars, Estonia (with its German aristocracy, its sizable Jewish population, and its groups of Swedish speakers) built up or enlarged an impressive array of institutions, including a national ethnographic museum and large folklore archives in Tartu. Founded in 1632, the University of Tartu has long been an important European centre of learning, not unlike the University of Riga in neighbouring Latvia, where Johann Gottfried von Herder was born and also worked for a while as an adult (see, for example, Novikova 2000). In the nineteenth century, Tartu became a centre for the shaping of a national Estonian culture. In this process oral traditions played a significant role, not least due to the Kalevipoeg, a national epic which, inspired by the Finnish Kalevala, had been composed on the basis of oral poetry by F.R. Kreutzwald during 1857-1861. It is no accident that such a central early twentieth century folklorist as Walter Anderson worked in Tartu.

In 1941, World War II reached Estonia and throughout the war the Germans and the Soviets fought over the country. In 1944, the Germans gave up and about 70,000 Estonians fled, most to Sweden, but many also to the United States and Australia. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, many other people were moved from different parts of the Soviet Union to work in industries founded by the Soviets such as large-scale shale mining. At the same time, many Estonians were deported to Siberia or were forced to settle elsewhere in the Soviet Union.

Then came glasnost and perestojka and, in the late 1980s, the "Singing Revolution" gained force in the Baltic countries. Like Latvians and Lithuanians, Estonians gathered to sing in huge choirs in the way that they had done when they fought for national independence in the late nineteenth century. And freedom came in 1991, sooner than anyone expected. Since then, the political, economic and cultural transformations have been extraordinarily rapid in Estonia, perhaps more rapid than in any other former Soviet republic. Estonia has now applied to become a member of the European Union.

What has happened to folklore research during the last ten years of intense (re)construction of national independence? It is not easy for an outsider to grasp the intricacies of the situation, but let me try. Under the leadership of Tartu professor Ulo Valk, young Estonian folklorists work hard to establish and maintain ties to scholars in Finland, western Europe and North America, at the same time as they devote intense efforts to reestablishing the national archives and to reconstitute and advance the knowledge of the regional cultures of Estonia. The collections are formidable, of both verbal and material culture. A number of leading Estonian intellectuals also have deep emotional ties to the Estonian folklore collections, among them former president Lennart Meri who has periodically been active as a folklorist.

The work on Uralic peoples in Russia, to whom Estonians and Finns are related linguistically and culturally, is the subject of new scholarly impulses. Many of these peoples lived through the Soviet period quite untouched (Siikala 2000), but are now undergoing rapid cultural transformations, not least due to the ecological disasters caused by over-extensive oil extraction. This work has important political overtones and some Finnish and Estonian folklorists look at it as a search to reconfirm cultural roots shared between themselves and other Uralic peoples (cf. Zwelebil 2001).

In addition, a great deal of research is being done on contemporary oral traditions in Estonia(3). Some concerns reminiscences of the Soviet period. In a fascinating study, Tiiu Jaago (1996), for example, analyzes the bitterness and cultural clashes expressed in narratives told by contemporary Estonians about the Kothla-Jarve region in the North-East into which great numbers of people from different Soviet regions were moved in the 1950s. According to Jaago's informants, the newcomers surrounded themselves with an air of superiority vis-a-vis Estonians who continue to resent this deeply (Jaago 1996: 184-187; cf. Tulviste and Wertsch 1999).

It is not difficult for the outsider to sense tensions between the diverse peoples inside the border who are called "Russians" or the derogatory Estonian word, tibla. There seems to be no easy way to include them in Estonian folklore studies. The memories of suffering and the bitterness remain overwhelming. Still, this situation is likely to change in the course of the rapid transformations of the public sphere that are now taking place in Estonia. There are already plans to preserve examples of Soviet architecture, and chances are that folklorists and ethnologists will soon be ready to debate and examine the lack of study of Russian culture. Yet so far, when Estonian folklore has been presented to the world at large, the dominant themes have been national reconstruction and cultural unity. For example, in 1999, when the Baltic countries were featured at the Festival of American Folklife on the Mail in Washington D.C., emphasis was placed on the huge song festivals that were central when Estonians fought for their freedom. In Washington, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania came fourth as united -- internally and with each other -- in their fight against the Soviet oppressors. There were no hints of the actual linguistic, cultural and religious complexities in these countries. No commemorative events such as the one I witnessed on May 9, 1998 were reenacted. And how could they be? How do you present the sorrow and bitter memories to munching festival participants in the heat of July in Washington?


One hundred and thirty km. west of Estonia, on the other side of the Baltic Sea, is the kingdom of Sweden whose history is vastly different. Although relatively rich and encompassing a large territory, this country of barely nine million inhabitants is also underpopulated and located in the periphery of the Occidental heartlands. At one time, however, Sweden was a political and military power and, during periods of the seventeenth century, considerable portions of northern Europe belonged to it. However, at the end of the nineteenth century, i.e. during the height of nation building in the modern sense, Norway alone remained politically associated with Sweden, an arrangement which ceased in 1905.

In the years immediately after World War II, Sweden built up a social democratic welfare state of unprecedented proportions. It was able to do so because it had escaped both World Wars and did not suffer the oppression from outsiders that was the fate of many other countries. This lucky situation, however, did not save Swedes from fear of outsiders. On the contrary, several scholars contend that the 1950s and 1960s were not only an era of increasing welfare for Swedish citizens but also an era of smug nationalism and xenophobia, perhaps more so than any other period in Swedish history (Hettne, Sorlin and Ostergard 1998). The welfare state did not alter the long Swedish history of exclusions of minorities and others perceived as foreign, but rather reinforced such practices, not least through exclusionary language policies. For a while, Estonians who fled to Sweden in 1944 were prevented from participation in many areas of Swedish life. At the same time, native Swedes spoke of themselves as belonging to one of the linguistically, religiously, and culturally most homogeneous nations on earth.

In the late 1960s, all of this began to change as Sweden became the goal of many immigrants. The first, smaller groups came from Southern Europe to work in the expanding industries. However, since the 1970s, large numbers of immigrants and refugees have arrived in waves from the entire world. Today, 20% of Swedish inhabitants are counted as immigrants. While many contemporary Swedes bemoan the destruction of the perceived homogeneity of the past, many others, in particular young people, think that the new ethnic diversity has vastly improved their country.

Not unexpectedly, folklorists and ethnologists have not only partaken of these developments but have also played a role in shaping them. At least up until the middle of the twentieth century, like employees of folklife museums and people engaged in the folk music and local history movements, they to a great extent regarded their work as a way to celebrate and enhance the different regional and local cultures that formed the Swedish national whole (Klein 2000b). When Artur Hazelius founded the Nordic Museum in 1873 and the open-air museum Skansen in 1891, he did so in order to highlight the understanding among all Swedes of the variations in the Swedish cultural heritage between the various provinces and parishes of the country (Frykman and Lofgren 1986). The same was true with the founding of the archives of verbal traditions ("folk memories"), which followed a few years later, through the efforts of Carl Wilhelm von Sydow and others. And it remained true as late as 1951, when the Archive of Folksong [Svenskt Visarkiv] was founded in Stockholm. All these institutions have helped define those cultural forms that could be regarded as truly Swedish and have helped deliver the symbols and customs that are most beloved: the midsummer poles, the correct ways to celebrate Christmas, the most wonderful fiddle tunes and costumes. To this day, Skansen functions as a national meeting place where Swedes gather to celebrate occasions that have national significance.

But Swedish folk traditions were not being collected solely to celebrate the nation's folk cultural heritage and elevate it to national property. Several related motivations have been present throughout the history of ethnology and folkloristics. One was to teach and enlighten the populace to become good Swedish citizens. Many collectors and scholars saw it as their task to gather superstitions in order to weed out the bad and destructive ones, or to collect erotic songs in order to control their spread, or to harvest textiles in order to abolish those perceived as ugly or un-Swedish -- such as patchwork quilts -- from the national collections (Klein 2001). The harvesting of folk materials had a civilizing, educational aim. While such motivations emerge everywhere, they seem to have been particularly prevalent in Sweden.

Thus the diversity that counted was regional, and it was so within the Swedish territory and with a Swedish profile. Such historical minorities as the Jews and the Roma played a minute role in museums, archives, national celebrations, and folklife studies. The only minority whose customs and rituals met with interest and some approval were the Saami. That does not mean that the Saami were not discriminated against. However, reindeer herding Saami had long been the quintessential exotic "others" in Sweden and continued to be presented as such, not least to the outside world(4).

How do contemporary Swedish ethnologists and folklorists deal with the striking cultural and ethnic diversity that now exists in their country? In this respect, there is a split between those folklife scholars who call themselves "ethnologists" and those who prefer the label "folklorists". Ethnology as it is practiced in Sweden today is a result of a severe critique of the old nationalistic/chauvinistic kind of folklife studies (Frykman and Lofgren 1986) and is close to historical sociology, cultural anthropology and cultural studies. Among ethnologists there is a great output of studies of immigrant cultures and immigrant integration in day-care centres, schools, hospitals and places of work, as there is among sociologists, anthropologists and others. But these studies seldom concern expressive traditions. Among the scholars who call themselves folklorists, on the other hand, very little is written about folklore forms as these emerge among immigrants themselves, although we find a few analyses of, for example, Swedish derogatory jokes about newcomers. There has never been in Sweden a counterpart to "ethnic folklore studies" as these are known in Canada or the United States, and this is true of most European countries. One reason that folklorists in Sweden have had a difficult time embarking on such studies is that the rich archive collections (which centred on Swedish regional cultures) were long looked upon as the folkloristic material, and they have remained so. In a way then, through their size and complexity, the archive materials have acted to prevent new investigations. And this has been particularly detrimental to the study of the traditions of minorities and new immigrants, including the hybrid forms that are now emerging.

Since the middle of the 1990s, the Swedish government has enjoined all museums, archives and other public cultural institutions to take into consideration in their activities the fact that Sweden now is "multicultural". The old folklife museums and folklore archives, stuck with organizational structures that leave them few openings for change, must make accommodations if they are to survive, and it is apparent that major changes are about to take place. Yet at the moment, the study of verbal arts and rituals is locked into a paradigm tied to nineteenth century nation building. In this way, visions of an ethnically homogeneous nation continue to set the tone for folklore study in Sweden. Despite vast historical differences and the rapid political and cultural changes that are now taking place in both countries, Estonian and Swedish folklorists remain tied to similar visions of national homogeneity.

The United States

Let us now move on to the true Occidental heartland, the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, in which complex migrations constitute a central "cultural drama" (cf Sollors 1987)(5). The United States is perhaps the oldest nation in the contemporary world to be intensely multiethnic as a result of large voluntary or involuntary migrations within historical memory. Moreover, in the contemporary United States, ethnicity (in particular of European-American groups) tends to have a very different profile from that of Estonia or Sweden or many other European countries. Indeed, in the view of many scholars, ethnicity is essential to American nationalism. "American immigrant ethnicity ... is an embracing of American nationalism: affirming your American ethnicity is a way of affirming your American identity", states Orm Overland (2000: 45). In the United States of the year 2000, people do not hide their belonging to one or several (notably European-American) ethnic groups. Rather, such belongings are celebrated and affirmed in the public sphere.

Also in terms of folklore scholarship the picture is more diverse in the United States than elsewhere. The United States can boast a great number of distinguished and internationally known folklore scholars. Some very sophisticated critical work is being conducted by several researchers. A number of distinguished folklore scholars in the United States are themselves immigrants and, in addition, great numbers of graduate students from all over the world pursue degrees at folklore departments in the United States, and this has long been the case. Many of these students devote themselves to studying phenomena in their home countries. Furthermore, folklorists from the United States do fieldwork outside their own country to a much greater extent than folklorists elsewhere. Indeed, the scholarly variety and vigour make it possible for several theoretical developments to operate side by side to an extent that is seldom found in other countries. Not least, the cross-influence between the academic sector and the public sector is important. The Folklife Festival on the Mail in Washington, for example, is innovative and unusual by world standards in the way that it puts the great cultural and ethnic diversity within the United States on display (Kurin 1997). Folklorists in the United States sometimes say that their field is small and undeveloped; by the standards of the rest of the world the developments are impressive(6).

But there are also other signals from the United States. For example, American scholars sometimes indicate that they do not need the world outside the United States. Or if they do need it, it is as an arena for conducting fieldwork, not as an arena for cooperative scholarly endeavours. Occasionally, senior folklorists from the United States behave as if it were their duty to appear at international conferences or accept invitations to speak in other countries. They will do it as a form of foreign aid, not because they think that they themselves can learn from these occasions. Such signals are communicated to graduate students and other young scholars, and international ethnology and folklore meetings remain poorly attended by folklore scholars from the United States, even by those who were themselves born and raised outside the United States. At the same time, timid international scholars sometimes come to conferences in the United States only to find that nobody listens to them. "Oh my, what is he talking about, we were into that years ago," one young researcher observed as he listened to an East European stumbling along in poor English. In spite of countless discussions about these issues, no real changes have been brought about. The result of the current attitudes is that folklorists in the United States are often naive about the world around them, and this in spite of their own innumerable scholarly successes.

To return to an argument that I began some time ago, it seems to me that folklorists in the United States -- whether due to arrogance or to notions of self-suffiency -- often pursue a kind of parochial nationalistic discourse that they themselves would never admit to. To my knowledge, no comprehensive study of "folklore and nationalism in the United States" exists, despite the fact that scholars in the United States have conducted studies with such a focus, but in other countries (Wilson 1976; cf Pocius 1996). As I suggested some time ago, there is a hidden nation discourse among folklorists in the United States. But because this discourse is so inclusive of ethnic diversity, it seems far more international and open to the world beyond the United States than it actually is.


Mali, the fourth country that I wish to consider, is economically one of the poorest in the world. Located in francophone North West Africa, with about ten million inhabitants, it is decidedly outside the Occidental heartlands. But it is linked to them through its former colonizer, France. Mali covers a huge landmass, a great part of which consists of the Sahara desert and the dry Sahel region. The most arable areas surround the two large rivers, the Senegal and the Niger. The latter begins in the coastal country of Guinea and moves northeast through Mali toward the ancient trading post of Timbuktu. Here it turns, makes a bow and, via the country of Niger, eventually flows into Nigeria, where it forms a delta on the Atlantic coast.

Mali is an ancient Muslim civilization and contains such old centres of Muslim learning as Timbuktu and Djenne. It has a long and complex history in which the Malinke kingdom of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries figures prominently. Like most African nations, Mali is ethnically complex, composed of groups of varying size and power: the Bambara, the Soninke, the Songhai, the Tuareg, the Malinke, the Fulani and the Dogon. From time to time, there have been outbreaks of enmity between groups, the so-called Tuareg rebellion being a recent example. In the late nineteenth century, Mali became a French colony and was a part of French Sudan. During this period, which Malian intellectuals sometimes call "la belle epoque coloniale", the French attempted to improve agriculture and industry. One of their most spectacular endeavours was the creation, in the 1930s and 1940s, of the large inland district, Office du Niger. French engineers raised the level of the river Niger at the town of Markala and began building impressive irrigation canals. At the same time, large numbers of migrants were forced to leave other parts of Mali to take part in canal building and later in working the soil. In some cases the work was conducted as a kind of military service (Bogosian 2000); in others, workers were slaves, so-called "colons" (Dougnon 2001). Many of these colons came from Dogonland and many brought the new customs back when they returned. As a whole, Mali experienced extensive internal migrations and a complex multicultural situation during the colonial period. Also today French remains the official language, even though Bambara is the lingua franca.

In 1960, Mali became an independent republic. At first it was a socialist one-party state with ties to the Soviet Union. These ties continued when Mali became a military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. However, Mali also received aid from several western countries, including France, which demanded democratic reforms as a condition for continued aid. Eventually, Mali succeeded in establishing a parliamentary democracy and since the election in 1992 of archaeologist and historian Alpha Oumar Konare as president, the political situation in the country has been quite stable(7).

Despite this relative stability, Mali remains poor in economic terms. No more than 30% of the population can read, and malnutrition and infant mortality are prevalent in the Sahel villages. Masses of people are moving into the capital of Bamako, which now has a population of about one million. It is swelling uncontrollably and people eke out a living in many different ways: they work on the many new (often illegal) building projects, they garden along the banks of the Niger, they recycle materials and sell them in immense markets. Malians by the thousands are also traveling abroad trying to earn a living; many go to France and to French speaking Canada. Some migrants who return or send money home contribute to the building boom in Bamako.

Not unexpectedly, traditional expressive culture is overwhelmingly rich and varied in this country where knowledge, to a great extent, is transmitted orally. The ancient oral epic about the hero Sunjata is famous among Malians and quite well researched (Austen 1999). The contemporary musical traditions are stunningly rich as is the variety of traditional instruments. Indeed, many Europeans and North Americans participate in a cult of both the ancient griots and of the amazing contemporary musical artists who work in a griot tradition (Diawara 1997). Among the latter we find Salif Keita, Oumon Sangare, and Habib Koite who tour the world's stages.

So where are the folklorists and ethnologists in Mali? In a sense, they aren't; no folklorists are trained in the country. Indeed, there are no graduate courses in any discipline within the humanities and the social sciences. The five-year old university in Bamako offers graduate courses in medicine and agriculture alone. Anthropologists and other scholars from abroad have conducted the only studies of folklore. Some are spectacular, not least the studies of masks, toys, and other aspects of Dogon culture by French anthropologist Marcel Griaule. His Dieu d'eau. Entretiens avec Ogotemmeli (1948) (translated into English as Conversations with Ogotemmeli [1965]) is, of course, one of the great classics of anthropology and folkloristics.

But a few Malians are studying their own traditions. Trained in France, the Soviet Union, the DDR, Germany, Canada or the United States, some have returned with a wish to work in their own country. One of them is ethnologist and historian Mamadou Diawara. Having studied at top academic institutions in France and Germany, he spent one year as a guest professor at Yale and another at the Center for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin. While in Berlin, he and a group of associates hit upon the idea to try to create a kind of graduate school/centre for advanced study in Bamako. With moneys from France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and other countries, Diawara is trying to establish an institute called Point Sud, where a handful of graduate students from Mali and other west African countries can study such topics as cultural perspectives on infant nutrition and the oral history of the colonial era (Dougnon 2001). Through special arrangements, their doctoral degrees are to be awarded at European universities. But Point Sud is also open to scholars from all parts of the world who can rent rooms there at a modest price and take part in the activities, not least by offering seminars to the graduate students. So far, a few distinguished senior scholars and many junior scholars have taken advantage of this opportunity, before moving on to fieldwork sites or to other places in Africa.

From the beginning, it has been central at Point Sud to build up a multidimensional and dynamic notion of "local knowledge [savoir local]". Local knowledge is not to be understood simply as "traditional" knowledge but, rather, as an effort to link together more universal bodies of knowledge with more local ones. In the goal to create improvements in the lives of Malians, scholars primarily from history, anthropology, folklore, medicine, and agriculture work on a long-term basis together with peasants and development experts to arrive at a situation in which the knowledge of all can meet and interact. The goal of Point Sud is to become a crossroads for exchanges between people representing a wide variety of fields and practices, to become an "intermediary and bridge builder" between worlds, disciplines, and regions of the world. Through a painstaking process of bricolage (not least financially), it is attempting to become a "crucible for ideas" in one of the economically most disadvantaged countries in the world (Diawara 2000).

Conclusions: Internationalism, the study of folklore, and difficult dilemmas

Point Sud is surely not the only institution in Africa that is attempting a novel approach to learning and to resolving the crisis in African universities. It has struck me, however, that Point Sud is an initiative that gives food for thought to all scholars engaged in folkloristics, ethnology, and related fields. We need platforms, bridges, crucibles for ideas, where national and international perspectives can be ventilated together. To work on a local or a national arena cannot be, and must not be, divorced from a commitment to internationalism and to worldwide issues. Indeed, the building up of various forms of knowledge in a national setting can only happen with the aid of broader and more global bodies of knowledge, and vice versa. The two are profoundly linked to one another. It seems to me that folklorists from all over could profit from engaging in an equivalent to a Point Sud. They need to sit down to talk at length to one another. To be sure, this has already been done in various summer schools, such as the Folklore Fellows' Summer School in Finland, which has been successful in many ways. But there is a need for situations in which folklorists and ethnologists interact with one another and with scholars from other disciplines for much longer periods of time than at these schools. And there is a need for them to do so, not in the institutions of occidental power, but in settings in which the given academic power hierarchies might be turned around in ways that might not happen in Europe or the United States. The object is not to obliterate national belongings and loyalties but to understand differences, not least differences in diversity politics and policies.

Another matter that folklorists and ethnologists need to examine, urgently and critically, are the premises for scholarship and the ideals of scholarship in different parts of the world. Who decides what is good folklore scholarship and from what platforms of power do they do so? As Lee Haring (2000) has noted, we need to compare (on a long term basis) the notions of "standard practice", the traditions of learning, the scholarly networks and power centres that we are products of. What are the differences between a Latin-American, a Soviet, and a British schooling? What must be fought against is a simplistic conviction that certain kinds of scholarship, i.e. scholarship in the anglophone heartlands, as a matter of course is more advanced and more "standard practice" than other kinds.

The critical debates and the comparisons of scholarly premises are likely to be exhilarating. But, if they are to take us anywhere, they are also likely to be troublesome and perhaps frightening. Most of all, they are likely to expose us to many difficult dilemmas. How does one, as a scholar coming from North America, discuss the policies of inequality and the ethnic exclusions in a country such as Estonia? Does one preach to Estonians about better ways? Does one attempt to teach "them" how to create a true multicultural society?

There are many things that outsiders can understand about people in other countries. Outsiders can comprehend the pain and the bitter memories among Estonians or the anticolonialist anger among Malians. The difficulties, the sorrows, and the conflicting loyalties of the world's many multiplaced persons, such as Elli Kongas-Maranda -- these are graspable and are likely to earn the sympathy of all. But how does one handle the feelings of revenge and xenophobia among people in countries who have themselves been oppressed and maltreated? How does one react to all those folklorists in the world who are not only using folklore to enhance their own country but also to destroy their neighbors?

Perhaps the recognition of dilemmas such as these will lead us to new and creative solutions. But whatever the outcomes, we must confront the difficult questions. We need to hear Malian analyses of scholarship in an Estonia or a Sweden just as much as we need to examine critically the impressive scholarly output in the United States. We must debate in structures of power in which we are all enmeshed in this world of nations in which we live.

Commentaire/Commentary : Neil Rosenberg, Laurier Turgeon

Neil Rosenberg: Thank you for a very enlightening and provocative presentation. I have lots of thoughts on this. I suppose I should refer to the fact that I'm an immigrant (from the U.S.). I participated in two national mythologies. Barbro and I studied in graduate school together, and sat in a number of seminars together, at Indiana University. At the time neither of us thought of ourselves as being immigrants, and part of our experience has been learning what it's like living in another country.

There are many points we could talk about here. I want to start with a Canadian point of view about nation. I think it's well known to all of us the idea that, here in Canada, there are places that are nations but not states. This is, of course, part of the argument about Quebec. It's a nation that is not a state. If we turn and look at Newfoundland, it's a former state that considers itself still a nation even though itis no longer one. It has been devolved to a province. It's interesting that the biggest folklore programs in Canada are from such places that have this kind of paradoxical relationship, in terms of nation. I think, now, that we see a growing presence in the Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Folklore, and here again, there's a kind of a nation-state thing going on, with a large Ukrainian presence here in Canada. For many years, the Ukraine was not a nation. So, here, just within Canada, we have this issue.

Another distinction that I think is an important one is what we call the people who were here before all of the Europeans arrived. Sometimes called "Aboriginals", this group is known in Canada as the "First Nations". So Canada is a country of nations, a state of nations, and those who care most about the sorts of things that we study are also those who, in many ways, have an ambivalence about national identity and nationalism, in the Canadian context. I think that's one thing to think about as we ponder our situation here.

This morning, we had a meeting about exchanges between Memorial and the Universities of Alberta, Sudbury, and Laval. We got to talking about the details of bureaucracy and who would handle these contacts of the students coming from other universities. And suddenly, we were talking about offices of international affairs, just, almost without thinking about it -- that these are the people who will handle these contacts. So, that's part of the dilemma that we have, although, I think it's also something that we can turn to our advantage in Canada. But we do need to be talking to each other first about what the differences are between our points of view.

We can see another kind of difference, I think, when we reflect on the difference between ethnology and folklore in Sweden as Barbro discussed it. This must have struck a resonant chord with most people here, since we had many debates about what the name of our society and our journal would be, for ethnology and folklore also coexist here in Canada. But the differences, in terms of what those words mean to us, are not the same. So that's a very interesting issue for us to explore as well, something that we ought to be looking at.

When we turn to the idea of the international, I think it's important for us to recognize that, in Canada -- certainly in English vernacular, I don't know if it's true in French as well -- the word "international" is often just a code word for "American", as in "So-and-so played at an international festival", meaning they went some place south of the border. Or, some forthcoming conference is going to have a couple of participants who come from the United States, so it's an international conference. And that's part of the problem we have living as we do so close to this very powerful state. This situation is very different from the European experience where you have many different nations, many different languages. That's something that we need to face and

think about.

There are so many interesting points here. One that I think, in talking about Sweden, was particularly resonant for me, was the way in which Barbro talked about, first of all, the delivering of symbols at Skansen. This is something that we do as folklorists -- create symbols. But we also teach and enlighten. We talk about the need for some sort of critical perspective about these symbols. Sometimes these two motives are at cross purposes, and it's a problem for us in our teaching. I was struck by what I would call the inertia that Barbro talked about with regard to archives. Archives really do create a kind of an inertia for us -- and not just archives, but also prominent national collections. There are canons which keep us from looking further and thinking about new ways of looking at the materials that we study.

In turning to the United States, I think that the Canadian dilemma -- and here, I speak as an immigrant -- I think the Canadian dilemma is that, on the one hand, we feel we understand the United States, but at the same time, the things that are reported to us about the United States and that we see, viewing it from across the border, are selected for us by the mass media and it's a Canadian perspective. And in fact, we don't always really know what's going on in the United States, and much of what's going on in the U.S. really isn't relevant to us. For example, we don't have anything like public folklore here. This is something I might disagree about with Barbro a bit. I think the public folklore movement is a really important part of the national perspective and dialogue in the U.S. Its expression on the Mall, the big American Folklife Festival is part of that.

Laurier Turgeon : Le texte de Barbro Klein veut envisager une nouvelle facon de penser et de traiter l'internationalisme et la mondialisation pour les ethnologues. Elle s'interroge sur la mode actuelle de l'internationalisme. Elle tache aussi de mieux comprendre le bienfonde de la croyance postmoderne de l'eclatement de l'Etat-nation, souvent relegue au qualificatif plutot pejoratif de local . Si l'Etat-nation est en voie d'extinction, comment se fait-il qu'une dizaine de nouveaux pays aient vu le jour au cours des dix dernieres annees dans l'ex-union sovietique ? Est-ce simplement un archaisme des pays de l'Europe de l'Est ? Si oui, comment se fait-il qu'un pays occidental comme la Belgique soit sur le point d'etre divise en deux Etats-nations ? Et que dire du cas du Quebec ? Si l'Etat-nation ne veut plus rien dire dans notre Amerique du Nord tres moderne, pourquoi le Quebec a-t-il investi autant d'energie a construire un programme politique national, et pourquoi le Canada a-t-il mis tant d'efforts a l'empecher de le realiser? L'autre probleme important que souleve Barbro Klein est celui des pratiques hegemoniques du savoir a l'interieur de la discipline. Pourquoi les pays riches et bien instruits de l'Occident definissent-ils les problematiques porteuses de la discipline, souvent a partir de preoccupations etroitement nationales, quand ce n'est pas a la suite de simples luttes de pouvoir entre ecoles ou disciplines ? Comment se faitil que ces problematiques (completement inadaptees a leurs besoins) soient exportees vers des pays sous-developpes, ces derniers restant entierement etrangers a leurs contextes de production ? Barbro Klein cite le cas d'ethnologues americains qui vont en mission a l'etranger plus par un sens du devoir et pour se donner bonne conscience que par un desir d'apprendre quelque chose de neuf. On peut aussi citer le cas des ethnologues americains qui ont condamne pendant plus de dix ans tous les essentialismes, sous pretexte qu'ils etaient des pratiques totalitaires, alors que l'on reconnait maintenant que l'essentialisation de la culture peut etre une forme tres efficace de resistance pour les groupes minoritaires opprimes, comme l'a souligne recemment Daniel Segal (1996). Bref, elle nous met en garde contre certains des mefaits de la mondialisation et de l'internationalisation du savoir ethnologique.

Barbro Klein s'efforce de renouveler les perspectives de recherche en prenant comme point de depart la nation, qui est encore, selon elle, un puissant lieu d'identification culturelle et affective. Elle postule que les compositions et les preoccupations culturelles des nations sont tres differentes et particulieres. D'autre part, elle constate que la production du savoir ethnologique est tres inegale entre les nations. Barbro Klein propose donc d'etudier chaque terrain national individuellement et de le comprendre dans sa specificite et sa singularite. Meme si elle ne le dit pas explicitement dans son texte, son approche ressemble beaucoup a ce que l'anthropologue americain Georges Marcus a appele l'ethnographie multisite. Plutot que d'effectuer une enquete approfondie sur un site donne (pays, region, groupe particulier), l'ethnographie multisite privilegie l'observation et la prise en compte de plusieurs sites, leur comparaison et leur traduction, l'etude de differents niveaux d'interaction, l'examen des trajectoires mouvantes des gens, des recits et des objets (Marcus 1995). D'une maniere semblable, Barbro Klein propose d'etudier les pratiques et les preoccupations ethnologiques nationales et leurs reactions a l'internationalisme dans quatre pays : l'Estonie, un pays balte de l'ex-union sovietique ; la Suede, pays scandinave recemment admis dans la communaute europeenne ; les Etats-Unis, super-puissance mondiale ; et le Mali, un pays musulman tres pauvre de l'Afrique. Plutot que d'organiser des conferences ou de faire des terrains traditionnels, elle envisage que les ethnologues de l'Occident entreprennent un veritable dialogue avec ceux des pays sousdeveloppes par le biais d'ecoles d'ete, par exemple. Tout aussi interessants seraient les etudes croisees ou un Malien pourrait faire du terrain en Suede et un Suedois au Mali pour ensuite comparer leurs resultats.

En depit de cette mise en garde rafraichissante de Barbro Klein, il n'en demeure pas moins que l'Etat-nation est de plus en plus chaudement conteste et il serait naif de le nier. Pendant tout le XIXe et une bonne partie du XXe siecle, l'Etat-nation fut un haut lieu d'investissement emotionnel et ideologique, au point d'en avoir un quasi-monopole. Le folklore a ete mis au service de l'Etat-nation avec la mission de nourrir le nationalisme par le bas et de l'interieur, et de maintenir le lien affectif entre la nation et les elements qui la composent, c'est-a-dire le peuple. Il me semble incontestable qu'il y a eu un desenchantement generalise vis-a-vis de l'Etat-nation au cours du dernier quart du XXe siecle, tant de la droite que de la gauche, tant dans les pays occidentaux et capitalistes que dans les pays socialistes de l'Europe de l'Est. On a assiste a un effondrement des grands recits et des grandes esperances militantes de l'Etat-nation, des certitudes providentielles et de la sociale-democratie qu'elle assurait. Tout le monde semble d'accord sur ce constat de la fin des militantismes revolutionnaires et des utopies exotiques.

J'irai meme plus loin et je dirai que la plupart des mouvements intellectuels qui ont vu le jour au cours des dernieres annees se sont eriges contre l'Etat-nation, au point ou on peut se demander si leur succes ne tient pas justement a la critique souvent virulente de l'Etat-nation plus qu'a autre chose. Une revue comme Public Culture, creee par Arjun Appadurai en 1988, a ete fondee sur l'hypothese que la nation n'etait plus le seul et unique lieu du politique et de l'economique, et que la culture publique etait un phenomene qui debordait largement le cadre strict de l'Etat-nation. La revue s'est donne pour objectif d'identifier et de mieux comprendre la relocalisation des pouvoirs traditionnels de l'Etat-nation dans les mouvements transnationaux de capitaux, de personnes et de formes culturelles. La revue a joui d'un immense succes aux Etats-Unis et a l'etranger. De meme, le succes des etudes culturelles, mieux connues en anglais par l'expression Cultural Studies, est lie peut-etre plus a leur posture tres critique envers l'Etat moderne qu'a l'optique marxiste qu'elles privilegient. En effet, les etudes culturelles se sont attaquees a des problemes d'hegemonie des rapports sociaux et de la politique de la culture des elites, de la culture de masse et de la culture populaire. On a ose interroger les rapports entre la production culturelle et la stratification sociale dans une perspective de classes, de races et de genres. Plus recemment, les etudes post-coloniales ont commence a explorer et a etudier les nouvelles manifestations du colonialisme dans les anciennes colonies (Inde, Afrique du Sud, Zaire, Canada) et dans les pays metropolitains (Angleterre, France, Allemagne) qui, par l'immigration, ont rapatrie une main d'oeuvre bon marche des colonies. Comme le soutient Ania Loomba, le colonialisme n'est pas seulement un systeme qui s'impose de l'exterieur, mais qui se reproduit aussi de l'interieur (Loomba 1998 : 37-44). Plutot que de penser le postcolonialisme en tant qu'un colonialisme tirant a sa fin, elle propose de l'envisager comme un phenomene de contestation de la domination coloniale et de ses heritages et survivances.

La problematique de la creolisation represente une preoccupation croissante pour les etudes postcoloniales en raison de la mobilite des ideologies et des identites generees par le colonialisme. Le plus souvent, la creolisation -- exprimee sous ses differents termes d'hybridite, de metissage, d'interculturel -- est decrite comme une strategie de lutte anticoloniale et un lieu de production de tierces cultures. S'inspirant des travaux de Michail Bakhtine sur le dialogisme, Homi Bhabba a defini les espaces de contacts et d'interactions en tant que lieux de metissage et de creation de nouvelles formes culturelles. Il soutient qu'a partir de ces espaces interstitiels s'elaborent des strategies du soi -- singuliere ou collective -- qui donnent naissance a de nouveaux signes de l'identite, a des lieux innovateurs de collaboration et de contestation, dans l'acte de definition du concept de societe lui-meme (Bhabba, 1994 : 1-2). Dans son analyse critique de cette conception de l'hybridite chez Homi Bhabha, Ania Loomba soutient qu'il s'agit de l'aspect le plus controverse dans le debat qui l'oppose a plusieurs autres penseurs de la creolisation. Selon elle, la creolisation est un attribut de la condition coloniale qui en fait un construit resultant du systeme lui-meme. Sous un faux-semblant de melange createur, la creolisation est un processus d'integration des differences et de domination culturelle qui donne, en fait, bonne conscience a ceux qui le gerent.

Barbo Klein veut faire de l'Etat-nation un lieu d'opposition a la mondialisation et placer les ethnologues sur le front de ce mouvement de resistance. Elle propose aussi de sensibiliser les grands Etats a la vulnerabilite des petits et a l'interet de leurs cultures. La reciprocite entre chercheurs de pays du premier monde et du tiers monde peut certainement contribuer a une plus grande reflexivite dans la demarche ethnologique et a reequilibrer les perspectives entre les cultures dominantes et les cultures dominees. Cependant, il ne faudrait pas oublier que les ethnologues ne sont pas les seuls acteurs du terrain. Les sujets ethnologiques sont regis par les forces complexes, puissantes et changeantes du monde contemporain. La mondialisation est une realite qui remet en cause l'Etat-nation et qui nous oblige a repenser l'avenir de notre discipline en fonction de son evolution. Plutot que de defendre les anciennes vertus de l'Etat-nation et d'essayer de les reactualiser a l'aide des ethnologues, ne faut-il pas definir de nouveaux paradigmes destines a mieux comprendre notre monde contemporain et a aider ceux qui en sont victimes ? Comme le rappelle Regina Bendix (1998), si nous voulons que notre discipline se developpe, il faudra aider les gens de chez nous et d'allleurs a mieux comprendre les tensions qu'ils vivent dans leur vie quotidienne et a composer avec elles.

Barbro Klein: There is so much to be said. You've given me so much to think about. Thanks both of you. One of the issues that is really enmeshed in lots of things you've said: you brought up Public Culture, the journal, and I agree with you. It's had a fantastic run of success and been very important. It has fascinated me, though, for a long time that its editor, Arjun Appadurai, if we looked at some of his major books such as Modernity at Large, all the examples, all the discussions concern India. I mean, here he is, launching a journal that will open up the nation, but his own work ... It's maybe a cheap shot to say what I'm saying, but I think it's important when you start reading between the lines of a lot of works, there are hidden nation discourses, to the most amazing degree especially in work like Public Culture -- which I love. I mean, it's a good journal. The postcolonial study, of course, has another twist as you say.

Thanks, Neil. You said several important things, but I was thinking, mostly when you remarked on the point I was also trying to make, that here we are, in a field that has been delivering symbols of nation-building all along. We both kind of just said that, period. But I was thinking of Peter's remarks in the previous discussion of Althabe's paper, where Peter indicated that, "Here we are, folklorists, a kind of iconoclastic, kind of not at all being into what? Protecting nations, finding symbols of nations?" On the other hand, we are supporting the subalterns. We are iconoclasts, and these two images ... that we manage to have them both and co-exist with both of them, I think is a very exciting thought to work further on. We live with both of them. Well, it wasn't quite what you said but it made me think of that.

Neil Rosenberg: Yes. One thing I wanted to mention was that there's a way in which we are mandarins -- I don't mean oranges. I mean that we are bureaucrats, in a sense, who gain our status by passing a test, you know, the doctorate or whatever, that shows that we have a mastery of our particular area of scholarship. But, that's part of what we do in this dialogue so that, even when we are iconoclasts, it's an iconoclasm that cuts across nations. It's an international set that we belong to.

Laurier Turgeon: One thing I've been thinking about, and that I'd like to put out on the floor ... Reading some of the work that's done by people like Arjun Appadurai and the cultural anthropologists and people who publish in Public Culture, and even some of the postcolonial studies people, and especially cultural studies, I think they are dealing with many of the same themes that folklorists have already dealt with long ago or that they're dealing with now. But, for some reason, I've noticed that these people seem to have more of an audience. And maybe it's just a misconception on my part, but I'm wondering about that. I think maybe we're not doing the right things to get across to people or maybe not as much as we should because, obviously, some other people are doing these things, and are being listened to more.

Barbro Klein: I think one of the reasons nobody's listening to us is that we are tied, so many of us, to paradigms that seem very forbidding and strange, the nation-building paradigms, for example. Cultural studies, in a lot of ways, managed to cut through all of that. We have a lot of baggage.

(1.) Of the four countries, I am most familiar with the United States and Sweden. Born in Sweden, I lived in the U.S. during 1961-1984, and then returned. Since 1998, I have been to Estonia many times. My interest in Mali and my visits there go back only a couple of years and are part of an effort by several European centres for advanced study to support the establishing of the Institute called Point Sud in Bamako, Mali, which will be further discussed in this article.

For a useful and learned comparison of issues concerning folklore and ethnicity in different countries, see Diarmuid O Giollain (2000).

This article is linked to the research project "Folklore, Heritage Politics, and Ethnic Diversity" which I directed together with Finnish folklorists Anna-Leena Siikala and Pertti Anttonen during 1998-2001. The project includes several Estonian scholars as well as Finns, Swedes, Norwegians, Russians and North Americans (Anttonen 2000, Klein 2000a). A few participants are minorities in their own countries: two are Saami and two are Mari and come from the Komi Republic in Russia. The project has generated studies which make it possible to compare heritage politics of Norwegian and Russian Saami, the Udmurt who live near the river Volga, and Iranian and Syrian immigrants in urban Sweden. I would like to express my gratitude to professor Juri Allik, Tartu University, Estonia, for his comments on this paper.

(2.) For a more detailed discussion of some of these ideas, see Michael Billig (1995). Several of his formulations have been important to this article, including the phrase "a world of nations".

(3.) Many articles in the electronically transmitted journal Folklore (http:// indicate the nature of this work.

(4.) During the fourteenth, fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, reindeer and their Saami keepers were given by Swedish kings to foreign dignitaries as diplomatic gifts. During the nineteenth century, when Saami and reindeer were shown abroad at fairs, the interest was increasingly moved from the animals to their keepers (Broberg 1981-1982).

(5.) This article deals much less with the United States than with Estonia, Sweden, and Mali. I am assuming a greater familiarity with the situation in the United States, and with the folklore scholarship there, than with those of the other countries.

(6.) However, it is important not to overrate the influence of these impressive developments upon the rest of the world. Of course, what scholars think and do in the United States has powerful a resonance elsewhere. However, this does not happen automatically and not all American developments are taken over in other countries. The "sociolinguistic turn" and the "performance school" for example, never really became entrenched outside North America. The Folklife Festival and other developments within the public sector in the United States remain a mystery to many outsiders. Actually, when developments in U.S. folklore research become influential elsewhere, they tend to be changed or adjusted to fit local circumstances, occasionally to an astonishing degree.

(7.) A new election is due to take place in 2002 and the political situation is once again uncertain.


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Author:Klein, Barbro
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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