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Folklore, Heritage Politics and Ethnic Diversity. A Festschrift for Barbro Klein.

Folklore, Heritage Politics and Ethnic Diversity. A Festschrift for Barbro Klein. Edited by Pertti J. Anttonen in collaboration with Anna-Leena Siikala, Stein R. Mathisen, and Leif Magnusson. (Botkyrka: Multicultural Center, 2000. Pp. 278+ 7 ill.)

This book is at the same time a collection of symposium papers and a festschrift for Barbro Klein, who recently turned sixty years of age. Klein graduated from Stockholm University in 1961 and studied folkloristics with Richard M. Dorson at Bloomington, Indiana, where she also took her Ph.D. in 1970. For several years she taught at different American universities, including the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1980s she returned to Stockholm University, where she was appointed professor in 1996. She is now a director of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences in Uppsala. The first essay in the collection, by Anna-Leena Siikala, is a sketch of Klein's life in folklore on both sides of the Atlantic. The symposium, held in June 1998 in Botkyrka, Sweden, was organized by a Nordic research project sharing the same name as the book. The purpose of the project is to "investigate the role of folklore and folkloristics in the reshaping of Nordic life that is now taking place as a result of the recent extensive transnational migrations and related changes in the political maps of the world" (23). In a short essay Roger D. Abrahams elaborates on some of the themes of the research project and exemplifies how other folklore scholars have treated them.

In his contribution, Pertti Anttonen, the book's leading editor, gives an outline of some such political map changes. He demonstrates that the allegedly homogeneous national cultures should be described more appropriately as homogenized. The production of homogeneity is an historical and political process, constantly challenged by heterogenizing forces. The population of Finland, which is the example Anttonen chooses, has always been mixed. The political call for national unity, however, has demanded rhetoric of a genetically coherent Fenno-Ugric ethnicity constructed in opposition to the surrounding Indo-European ones. A central symbolic position has been attributed to Karelia, an area most of which has never even belonged to the state of Finland, but whose language, folk poetry, and customs have been regarded as representing the most ancient and genuine layers of Finnish culture. The Sami, on the other hand, whose languages are closely related to Finnish, and who presumably have inhabited northern Scandinavia at least as long as any other group, have consistently been denied any role in the shaping of the national culture of Finland.

In her article, Regina Bendix discusses one of the project's key words--heritage--a "strange, neutralizing word" that "has the power to disempower, to hide history and politics by putting everything into a collective pot of 'culture' and 'past,' possibly adding the adjective 'important' to it" (42). Early modern society created its modernity by inventing a contrasting past that was to be collected, preserved, and put on display in museums. Hierarchical patterns, power systems, economic structures, and excluding mechanisms were effectively wiped away from the ideal image of a genuine, authentic national culture. Bendix illustrates how the concept of heritage in today's late modern society plays the same role in hiding aspects of power and diversity. To clarify her point, she compares the terms "heredity" and "hybridity," semantically precise, biological concepts that highlight such structures instead of concealing them. Heredity emphasizes legal inheritance and hereditary privileges as well as political and military struggles. Hybridity underscores the existence of class differences and conflicts, diversity, injustice, prejudice, multi-culturality, and heterogeneity.

Kjell Olsen discusses how the exhibits of Alta museum in northernmost Norway take part in constructing ethnicity. Olsen regards the story told by the museum as a master narrative inviting tourists to interpret Alta's ethnically mixed situation (locally represented groups include Sami, Norwegians, Kvens, Russians, Finlanders, and Tamils) in terms of Western European ideas about First World (civilized) and Fourth World (indigenous) peoples. Locally told stories question this picture by telling of geographical boundaries between coastland Norwegians and inland Sami, of blurred or non-existent ethnic boundaries, and by adding all kinds of individual reactions to the exhibition.

Using examples from Swedish museums, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett shows how heritage is constructed in an interplay between exhibited objects, the words of the museum curators, and the responses of the visitors.

In her article, Anna-Leena Siikala follows the development of ritual during the last decade in the Republic of Udmurtia, west of the Ural Mountains. During Soviet times, this area was strictly closed because of its military industry. Sacrificial rituals were performed secretly. Today, the region is well connected to the rest of the world, and the religious rituals have been transformed into national festivals, broadcast on television, where international artists perform. A thorough understanding of contemporary heritage production can only be reached against the backdrop of globalization. Furthermore, in contrast to a scholar from the social sciences, Siikala argues, "the folklorist is in a position to identify not only the means of constructing and manifesting the individual self, but also the shared models of thinking, feeling, and experiencing" (82).

Frank J. Korom illustrates the idea of tradition as a symbolic process, previously explored by Richard Handler and Jocelyn Linnekin ("Tradition: Genuine or Spurious." Journal of American Folklore 97: 273-90), with examples of politically contested traditions in Trinidad.

Karin Becker reports from her joint fieldwork with Barbro Klein in a multicultural area of municipal garden lots outside Stockholm, claiming that photographs should reconstruct the experience of being in the field (105). She also discusses how photography is a process of negotiation with the informants, and how the photographs can be used ethnographically. In line with the present context, Becker exemplifies how gardening maintains links to the past, and at the same time literally establishes new roots. In gardening, emotions and traditions are territorialized and embodied in highly visual forms.

Using Gotland's Medieval Week festival as her example, Lotten Gustafsson shows how medieval buildings, play with identity, and negotiations between local inhabitants and newcomers are used in a process of reconsideration of identity.

Stein Mathisen shows how in early collections of Sami folklore, collectors and publishers tended to characterize Sami culture as homogeneous. However, a closer look at two of the main Sami spokespersons shows that while one of them acted as a translator and mediator in a multicultural fishing and trading community, the other had taught reindeer herding to Eskimos in Alaska and met with African Americans and Native Americans in the U.S.A.

Mikako Iwatake describes how Kunio Yanagida (1875-1962) constructed a form of folkloristics that was uniquely Japanese but lay within the framework of German philology, which, according to Iwatake, is tainted with "Aryanist racism, Eurocentrism, nationalism and sexism" (207). Yanagida's ethnography put rice-cropping farmers at the cultural center, while mountain peoples and itinerant groups were regarded as culturally peripheral. The Ainu people, mostly inhabiting the northern island of Hokkaido, were denied a place in Japanese culture, while Okinawans, occupying the southernmost group of islands, were supposed to preserve some traces of ancient Japanese culture.

Orvar Lofgren illustrates how different attitudes to "the national" (an abstract noun not defined in the article, but which seems to mean a discourse about national culture and symbols) mirror transformations in society. During the 1960s and 1970s, national rhetoric was seldom used in Sweden, which at this time became both more cosmopolitan and more homogenized. The debate preceding Sweden's entry into the European Union, the influx of immigrants from different countries, and the emergence of neo-fascist organizations generated new attitudes towards national symbols. The Swedish flag can be used as decoration on birthday cakes or as a racist symbol excluding certain ethnic groups.

A festschrift for Barbro Klein would of course not be complete without the participation of the jubilee-celebrator herself. The enthusiastic, ever-present Barbro would certainly not let such minor details as her own sixtieth birthday stop her from taking part in the intellectual discussion. Her contribution to this volume summarizes the history of the project and its first symposium. Not least important, she hints at some points of discussion that were not followed through at the Botkyrka symposium. A central question appears to be how heritage is actually produced in processes of, on the one hand, hiding and concealment, and on the other, dramatization and exoticization (29). The common denominator of the authors is perhaps less a joint stance on questions concerning heritage politics and ethnic diversity than an open-minded curiosity and desire to grasp and understand what goes on in the world around us. Several of the authors use intellectual tools borrowed from our scholarly neighbors, mainly sociologists and anthropologists, but they borrow critically. They seem to be convinced, and I certainly am, that our own field of science, folkloristics, carries with it more than sufficient intellectual potential to vastly expand our research into, in Barbro Klein's words, "tradition worlds that have never before entered our scholarly horizons" (35). This anthology can be regarded as an attempt to outline some daring, challenging, oppositional, politically conscious roads into the future for tomorrow's folkloristics.

Ulf Palmenfelt

University of California, Berkeley

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Author:Palmenfelt, Ulf
Publication:Cultural Analysis
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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