Letters are vehicles through which culture circulates. They have been vital in researching cultural flows. In addition, letters involve many practices of production, transfer and reception that are interwoven with textual, material and sensual qualities, which deserve ethnographic attention.
Letters are all around: envelopes, stamps, bills, love-letters, recommendation letters, postcards or greetings. In handwriting or print, with a letter-head or just notes, we encounter them in our everyday experiences. Occasionally our research takes us to special archives where they are stored, all dusty and yellow.
Letter writing is one of the most pervasive literate practices in human societies (Barton & Hall 2000). They are vehicles through which ideas, stories, emotions, news, values, theories and data circulate. Hence correspondences are instrumental for folklorists, ethnologists and historians who are following the flow of cultural knowledge. Simultaneously, many practices of production, transfer and reception that are interwoven with textual, material and visual qualities deserve attention in their own right.
We invite papers that deal with contemporary ethnography as well as historical-ethnography that may relate to the following issues:
-The life of the letter.
-The dialogic nature of correspondence (discursive and/or performative aspects)
-Materiality: processes of archiving and collection, hand writing, letter-heads, decay of paper etc.
-Ethnography of post-offices and postal workers.
-Censorship, whether institutional or personal: between the oral and the written.
-The poetics of correspondence (letter genres): love letters, letters of complaints, letters from the war-front, official writing, academic written interaction, writing conventions etc.
-Sensual aspects of correspondence (sight, touch and smell): postcards, greetings, stamps, paper quality, calligraphy, decorations, drawing, scented papers etc.
-From snail-mail to e-mail: exploring cultural implications of transformations in media.
Katre Kikas (Estonian Literary Museum)
Dani Schrire (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Anne Ala-Pöllänen (University of Helsinki)