Accepted Paper:

Two fieldworks among Estonian Swedes in the 1920s and 1930s: ethnologists and their research subjects in different political settings  


Marleen Metslaid (Estonian National Museum)

Paper short abstract:

My paper will analyse two fieldworks among Estonian Swedes (1924, 1940), set in rather disparate political situations. I am interested in how ethnographers saw their work and their interaction with people and how their research subjects conceptualized this.

Paper long abstract:

Besides collecting material artefacts ethnographers wished to concentrate on oral notes at the very beginning of the discipline. Although they relied on typological and cartographical methods which regarded culture as material entity, researchers met people during their fieldworks and were interested in theirs reminisces of bygone "folk culture". Herein I am interested in how ethnographers saw their work and their interaction with people living in the countryside and how people conceptualized this work (as much as it is possible to study from archival materials).

In my paper I would like to examine collector-informant interactions in the 1920s-30s Estonian ethnology (then named `rahvateadus`, folk science or ethnography). I will concentrate on two different fieldworks, set in rather disparate political situations, although both carried out among Coastal Swedes.

Student of ethnography, Ferdinand Linnus, later director of Estonian National Museum, was sent to Ruhnu (Runö) in 1924 by the museum to collect artefacts and oral traditions among people who had lived centuries in this small remote island and preserved their heritage. Gustav Ränk, then professor of ethnography at the University of Tartu, visited Pakri islands (Rågöarna) in 1940 in connection with forced migration of the inhabitants to Sweden by the Soviet powers.

The Coastal Swedes were accustomed of being an object of study to tradition researchers, primarily from Sweden. It is interesting to examine how ethnographers integrated their heritage into Estonian folk culture, and how different and in what aspects these fieldworks were for the researchers as well as for the informants.

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