Writing a Folklorist’s Persona in the Field: How Defining the Object of Study Defines the Scholar


  • Lisa Svanfeldt-Winter Stockholm University, Sweden




scholarly persona, history, nationalism, ethnography, folklore collections


In this article, I approach negotiations of belonging by studying the relationship between folklorists and their informants. I examine how young Finnish folklorists on their first collection journeys in the early 1920s positioned themselves as scholars by stressing both their identification with and their differences from the informants. The discipline's high status as a "national science" required the collectors to approach the locals as carriers of a national heritage shared between the collectors and informants On the other hand, the pursuit of scholarly acknowledgement urged the scholars to emphasize their position as experts who could evaluate the authenticity and academic relevance of the information offered by the locals. One effective way to do so was to highlight a temporal distance between the describer and the described, placing the informants in an earlier time of lower social and cultural development than the scholar. I discuss how the alternation between identification and difference can be interpreted as a means for the scholars to negotiate their places in their academic community and to form feasible scholarly personae within it. The article places special focus on how the young collectors performed this negotiation by describing informants in their correspondences with student friends and cooperating to find shared ways of approaching the informants in acceptable ways according to their discipline.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

  • Lisa Svanfeldt-Winter, Stockholm University, Sweden

    PhD candidate, Department of History, Stockholm University.


Anttonen, P 2012, ‘Oral Traditions and the Making of the Finnish Nation’, in T Baycroft & D Hopkin (eds), Folklore and Nationalism in Europe During the Long Nineteenth Century, Brill, pp. 325–350.

Anttonen, P 2005, Tradition Through Modernity. Postmodernism and the Nation-State in Folklore Scholarship, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.

Apo, S, Stark-Arola, L & Nenola, A (eds) 1998, Gender and Folklore. Perspectives on Finnish and Karelian Culture, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.

Baycroft, T 2012, ‘Introduction’, in T Baycroft & D Hopkin (eds), Folklore and Nationalism in Europe During the Long Nineteenth Century, Brill, pp. 1–10.

Bendix, R 1997, In Search of Authenticity. The Formation of Folklore Studies, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wis.

Boon, JA 1982, Other Tribes, Other Scribes. Symbolic Anthropology in the Comparative Study of Cultures, Histories, Religions and Texts, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Bosch, M 2013, ‘Persona and the Performance of Identity Parallel Developments in the Biographical Historiography of Science and Gender, and the Related Uses of Self Narrative’, L’Homme, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 11–22.

Butler, J 1999, Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, New York.

Carson, C 2001, ‘Objectivity and the scientist: Heisenberg rethinks’, Science in Context, vol. 16, no. 1–2, pp. 243-269.

Clifford, J 1984, ‘Power and Dialogue in Ethnography. Marcel Griaule’s Initiation’, in GW Stocking (ed), Observers Observed. Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

Clifford, J & Marcus, GE (eds) 1986, Writing Culture. The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. a School of American Research Advanced Seminar, University of California Press, Berkeley.

Condren, C, Gaukroger, S & Hunter, I 2006, ‘Introduction’, in The Philosopher in Early Modern Europe. The Nature of a Contested Identity, Ideas in Context, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Cusack, T 2001, ‘A “Countryside Bright with Cosy Homesteads”. Irish Nationalism and the Cottage Landscape’, National Identities, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 221–238.

Daston, L & Sibum, HO 2003, ‘Introduction: Scientific Personae and Their Histories’, Science in Context, vol. 16, no. 1–2.

Dundes, A 1980, Interpreting folklore, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Engman, M 2003, Dagligt liv i S:t Petersburg. Bland kejsarens finländska undersåtar, SLS, Helsingfors.

Eskola, K 1999, Kahden. Martti Haavion ja Elsa Enäjärven päiväkirjat ja kirjeet 1920–1927, WSOY, Porvoo & Helsinki.

Eskola, K ‘Elsa Enäjärvi-Haavio (1901–1951)’, Klassikkogalleria. Feministisiä ajattelijoita 1600–1950-luvuilta, retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://www.helsinki.fi/sukupuolentutkimus/klassikkogalleria/enajarvi/index.htm

Fabian, J 2002, Time and the Other. How anthropology makes its object, Columbia University Press, New York.

Fabian, J 2006, ‘The other revisited. Critical afterthoughts’, Anthropological Theory, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 139–152.

Fewster, D 2011, ‘“Braves Step out of the Night of the Barrows”. Regenerating the Heritage of Early Medieval Finland’, in RJW Evans & GP Marchal (eds), The uses of the Middle Ages in modern European states. History, nationhood and the search for origins, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Finnish Literature Society, Literary archives, Letter collection of Elsa Enäjärvi-Haavio (LCEEH). 764, 785.

Finnish Literature Society, Literary archives, Letter collection of Martti Haavio (LCMH). 730, 731, 736, 758.

Finnish Literature Society, Literary archives, Manuscript collection of Elsa Enäjärvi-Haavio (MCEEH). 5. Diaries, 'Diary of 1923’, 'Vb Kesä 1921'.

Finnish Literature Society, Literary archives, Manuscript collection of Martti Haavio (MCMH). 5.1 Diaries.

Finto: KOKO: ortodoksinen kirkko’, retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://finto.fi/koko/fi/page/p12457

Forsman, J, Wecksell, JA, Havu, I & Salovaara, H (eds) 1925, Pieni tietosanakirja. 1. osa. A - Isonzo, Otava, Helsinki.

Garberding, P 2012, ‘“There are dangers to be faced”. Cooperation within the International Association of Folklore and Ethnology in 1930s Europe’, Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 25–71.

Häyrynen, M 2000, ‘The Kaleidoscopic View: The Finnish National Landscape Imagery’, National Identities, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 5–19.

Junkala, P, Kiuru, E, Löfström, J, Lönnqvist, B & Sääskilahti, N (eds) 1998, ‘Toinen’ sivilisaatio. Arkielämä, sivilisaatio ja kansankulttuuri Suomessa noin 1500–2000, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä.

Kallio, K 2013, Laulamisen tapoja. Esitysareena, rekisteri ja paikallinen laji Länsi-Inkeriläisessä kalevalamittaisessa runossa, University of Helsinki, Helsinki.

‘Karjala’ 2015, Institute for the Languages of Finland, retrieved April 10, 2017, from https://www.kotus.fi/kielitieto/kielet/karjala

Keiho, H 1994, ‘Mikä on ryssä-sanan synty?’, Hiidenkivi. Suomalainen kulttuurilehti, p. 44.

Keinänen, M-L 2004, ‘Metsäsuomalaisen kulttuurin renessanssi ja suomalaiset tutkijat’, in P Laaksonen, S Knuuttila, & U Piela (eds), Kenttäkysymyksiä, Finnish Literary Society, Helsinki, pp. 91–110.

Koski, K 2011, Kuoleman voimat. Kirkonväki suomalaisessa uskomusperinteessä, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.

Lähteenmäki, M 2009, Maailmojen rajalla. Kannaksen rajamaa ja poliittiset murtumat 1911-1944, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.

Lilja, A 1996, Föreställningen om den ideala uppteckningen. En studie av idé och praktik vid traditionssamlande arkiv. Ett exempel från Uppsala 1914–1945, Dialekt- och folkminnesarkivet [distributör], Uppsala.

Loomba, A 2002, Colonialism/postcolonialism, Routledge, London.

Majamaa, R ‘Haavio, Martti (1899–1973)’, Biografiskt Lexikon för Finland, retrieved March 10, 2017, from http://www.blf.fi/artikel.php?id=703

Nevalainen, P 1991, ‘Inkerinmaan ja inkeriläisten vaiheet 1900-luvulla’, in P Nevalainen & H Sihvo (eds), Inkeri. Historia, kansa, kulttuuri, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki, pp. 234–299.

Nyström, S 2013, Poikkeusajan kaupunkielämäkerta. Helsinki ja helsinkiläiset maailmansodassa 1914–1918, University of Helsinki, Helsinki.

Ó Giolláin, D 2000, Locating Irish Folklore. Tradition, Modernity, Identity, Cork University Press, Cork.

Paul, H (ed.) 2016, Low Countries Historical Review. Theme issue on Scholarly Personae.

Paul, H 2017, ‘What Defines a Professional Historian? A Historicizing Model’, Journal of the Philosophy of History, vol. 11, no. 2, p. 229.

Pöysä, J 2004, ‘Historian etnografia Vienassa’, in Kenttäkysymyksiä, Kalevalaseuran vuosikirja, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki, pp. 25–72.

‘Russki’ 2018, Oxford Dictionaries, retrieved March 7, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/russki

Sääskilahti, N 1998, ‘Autenttinen kansankulttuuri?’, in P Junkala (ed), ‘Toinen’ sivilisaatio. Arkielämä, sivilisaatio ja kansankulttuuri Suomessa noin 1500–2000, Jyväskylän yliopisto, Jyväskylä, pp. 64–78.

Said, EW 2000, Orientalism, Ordfront, Stockholm.

Seljamaa, E-H 2008, ‘Remarks on the Historic-geographic Method and Structuralism in Folklore Studies. The Puzzle of Chain Letters’, Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 83–98.

Sievänen-Allen, R 1993, Tyttö venheessä. Elsa Enäjärvi-Haavion elämä 1901-1950, WSOY, Porvoo & Helsinki.

Skott, F 2008, Folkets minnen. Traditionsinsamling i idé och praktik 1919–1964, Institutet för språk och folkminnen i samarbete med Göteborgs universitet, Göteborg.

Spring, U 2001, ‘Imagining the Irish and Norwegian Peasant around 1900. Between Re-Presentation and Representation’, Historisk Tidsskrift (Norway), vol. (80) 2001:1, pp. 75–99.

Tai, C & Dongen, J van 2016, ‘Anton Pannekoek’s Epistemic Virtues in Astronomy and Socialism. Personae and the Practice of Science’, BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, vol. 131, no. 4.

Tarkka, L 1989, ‘Karjalan kuvaus kansallisena retoriikkana. Ajatuksia karelianismin etnografisesta asetelmasta’, in Runon ja rajan tiellä, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki, pp. 32–46.

Torgovnick, M 1990, Gone primitive. Savage intellects, modern lives, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Vakimo, S 2001, Paljon kokeva, vähän näkyvä. Tutkimus vanhaa naista koskevista kulttuurisista käsityksistä ja vanhan naisen elämänkäytännöistä, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.

Virtanen, M 2001, Fennomanian perilliset. Poliittiset traditiot ja sukupolvien dynamiikka, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.

Wichmann, Y et.al. 1922, Tietosanakirja. Tietosanakirja-osakeyhtiö, Helsinki.






Open Submission Articles

How to Cite

Writing a Folklorist’s Persona in the Field: How Defining the Object of Study Defines the Scholar. (2018). Persona Studies, 4(1), 18-31. https://doi.org/10.21153/ps2018vol4no1art692