LV Latviski

Kad zinātu kur kritīs, tad būtu nolicis salmus. (LFK 941, 2078)

The 12th International Conference of
Young Folklorists

Beyond the Field: Fieldwork in the 21st Century

September 13–15, 2023, Riga, Latvia



Keynote Speakers




Folklore studies have relied on firsthand encounters as a source of data since the 19th century when the first folklorists set out to collect oral lore from European peasantry. Since then, the discipline and the ways of human communication have changed tremendously; however, even in today's digital environment, communication between folklore scholars and their informants has not lost its importance. Reflexivity has become an integral part of the discipline and the ethical principles of fieldwork have advanced considerably. The power relations in fieldwork have been transformed by applying collaborative ethnography as a methodological framework. Thus, folk performers are not seen as a mere source of information, but rather as fieldwork collaborators and co-creators of knowledge. The practical aspect of fieldwork has developed alongside technological advancements allowing the folklore collectors to capture their informants on various media.

Moreover, the proliferation of digital technologies, social media platforms, and other virtual spaces of the 21st century have inevitably modified how we define 'the field' itself. The global Covid-19 pandemic made researchers adapt to online interactions as the key form of communication, since the mobility of researchers was limited. The devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine has suspended fieldwork, disrupted research, and brought the future into uncertainty and precariousness for many. This poses the challenges of fieldwork during warfare and socio-political crises, questioning the ethical responsibilities that come with it.

Despite the constantly changing world around us, folklore scholars still prefer the firsthand observation of informants and communities in their habitats and documentation of their knowledge as the main research method. The 12th International Conference of Young Folklorists welcomes proposals for papers on various fieldwork-related topics. Potential themes include but are not limited to the following subject areas:

Since fieldwork as a method is relevant not only in folklore studies, but also in anthropology, oral history, cultural heritage studies, and other related disciplines, participants from other fields are also welcome to join the conference.

The working language of the conference is English. Please submit abstracts of 350 words, along with your name, institutional affiliation, email, and a brief biographical note (2–3 sentences) to the conference email The deadline for the abstracts is 1 May 2023. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by 1 June 2023. There is no conference fee, but participants are expected to cover their travel and accommodation expenses.

The conference is organized by the Archives of Latvian Folklore, Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, and will be held at the National Library of Latvia.



National Library of Latvia, Conference centre hall D
Mūkusalas iela 3

10.00–10.15 Registration and coffee
10.15–10.30 Opening words


Klāvs Sedlenieks (Rīga Stradiņš University, Faculty of Communication, Latvia): In Search for Unknown Unknowns – Why Fieldwork is Still the Way!

11.30–11.50 Coffee


11.50–12.15 Jason S. Cordova (University of Tartu, Estonia): Indigenous Star Lore and the Creation of Community: the Cultural Landscape of Mexicayotl Astronomy and Belonging
12.15–12.40 Robertho Miguel Paredes (University of Tartu, Estonia): “Entre pájaros y árboles”. Visual Narratives of the Forest: Research About Trees, Birds, and the People of the Amazon Forest
12.40–13.05 Elvīra Žvarte (Archives of Latvian Folklore, Institute of Literature, Folklore, and Art, University of Latvia, Latvia): Writing Old Age: Literary Gerontology in Co-Creation
13.05–13.30 Danila Rygovskiy (University of Tartu, Estonia): Writing as a Self-Transformative Spiritual Practice in a Female Old Believer Monastery

13.30–14.30 Lunch


14.30–14.55 Ágnes Eitler (Institute of Ethnography, Eötvös Loránd University / Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Hungary): Rethinking Collaboration in Studying Sideways
14.55–15.20 Raminta Jakucevičienė (The Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, Lithuania): Ethical Challenges: Giving and Taking During Fieldwork
15.20–15.45 Saara Mildeberg (Tallin University, Estonia): When the Sun Rises from the East: Navigating through Necessary Evils with Scavenger Ethnography
15.45–16.10 Anna Elizabete Griķe (University of Latvia, Latvia): “Why Does it Interest You?” Negotiating Research with Informants

16.30–17.30 Visit to the Archives of Latvian folklore (National Library of Latvia, 5th floor)

Music & drinks at the Cider Bar SIDRĒRIJA (Peldu iela 24)


National Library of Latvia, Conference centre hall D
Mūkusalas iela 3


10.00–10.25 Alina Oprelianska (University of Tartu, Estonia): To Believe or Not to Believe: Some Notes on Gender Assignment in Ukrainian Folklore of the 19 th and the Beginning of the 20 th Century
10.25–10.50 Kinga Horváth (Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary): Manuscripts of Hungarian Volunteer Ethnographic Collectors from the 1950s and 1960s. Research Problems and Possibilities
10.50–11.15 Gabriella Vámos (Eötvös Loránd University Institute of Ethnography and Folklore Department of Material Ethnography / MNM Semmelweis Museum of Medical History, Hungary): Fieldwork Under Political Pressure in Hungary in the 1950s
11.15–11.40 Laura Suszta (Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary): When the Field is on Paper: Modern-day Problems with Historical Texts Based on Samuel Hearne (1745–1792)

11.40–12.00 Coffee


12.00–12.25 Quentin "Vassa" Swaryczewski (University of Tartu, Estonia): Rethinking the Role of Empathy as Ethical Responsibility in Fieldwork
12.25–12.50 Siarhiej Makarevich (University of Tartu, Estonia): Interwoven Identities: Safeguarding the Local Weaving Tradition of the Hancavičy District (Belarus) by Doing an Academic Project
12.50–13.15 Parishmita Kashyap (Sikkim University, India): Puppetry as a Material Culture
13.15–13.40 Stefka Budakova (Shumen University, Bulgaria): Music Pedagogy and Folklore Transmission at Preschool Period. Observations from Bulgaria

13.40–14.40 Lunch


14.40–15.05 Eglė Gelažiūtė-Pranevičienė (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, Lithuania): Archival Folk Song Records in Contemporary Music or Creative Process as a Fieldwork
15.05–15.30 Rafał Miśta (University of Warsaw, Poland): Layers of Historical Folklore Data—from Big Uncertainties to the Big Picture
15.30–15.55 Elīna Gailīte (Archives of Latvian Folklore, Institute of Literature, Folklore, and Art, University of Latvia): Do You Also Dance?

Elizabetes iela 37–2


Ulla Savolainen (University of Helsinki, Department of Cultures, Folklore Studies, Finland): The Field of Memory Culture: Ingrian Finns’ Historical Experiences through Multiple Media and Times

18.30–18.45 Coffee


Terje Toomistu “SOVIET HIPPIES” (2017)


National Library of Latvia, Conference centre hall D
Mūkusalas iela 3


10.00–10.25 Justīne Jaudzema (Archives of Latvian Folklore, Institute of Literature, Folklore, and Art, University of Latvia / Latvian Academy of Culture, Latvia): Fieldwork Expedition Materials of Archives of Latvian folklore: 1986–1991
10.25–10.50 Garima Thakuria (Sikkim University, India): Longtsaok Tradition and Associated Beliefs Among the Lepcha Community of Sikkim
10.50–11.15 Kitija Balcare (Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art of the University of Latvia / Faculty of Humanities of the University of Latvia, Latvia): Folklore Motifs in Site-specific Theatre in Latvia: Reconstructing a Lost Language
11.15–11.40 Ilga Vālodze Ābele (INITIUM, Latvia): Theatre from Interviews: “Dickens Street – The Other”

11.40–12.00 Coffee


12.00–12.25 Reina Ghoroghchian (University of Tartu, Estonia): Confronting Challenges: Lessons from Fieldwork Amidst Political Upheaval
12.25–12.50 Savannah-Rivka Powell (University of Tartu, Estonia / Europaeum Scholar, University of Oxford): Trauma Informed Approaches to Fieldwork and Intragroup Identity Dysphoria: Shifting Dynamics of Representation and Visibility of Compounded Marginalization
12.50–13.15 Paolo Riccardo Oliva (Trento University, Italy): A Single Memory, a Double and Different Narration. Can the Purpose of a Publication and the Social Role of an Interviewer Change the Memory of a Story?
13.15–13.40 Šarūnas Rinkevičius (Vilnius University, Institute of Asian and Transcultural Studies, Lithuania): Collective Memory and Modern Maronite Identity in the 21st Century: An Empirical Approach

13.40–14.40 Lunch


14.40–15.05 Andrus Tins (Estonian Literary Museum, Estonia): Stories and Narrations about Artificial Intelligence: An Estonian Case Study
15.05–15.30 Elizabete Grinblate (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia, Latvia): Betwixt and Between: Navigating a Dark Virtual Reality Experience and Methodological Limitations
15.30–15.55 Uģis Nastevičs (Latvian Academy of Culture / University of Latvia, Latvia): The Pagan Map of the Holy Places of European Ethnic Religions: Newbuilt and Vandalized
15.55–16.20 Michele Tita (University of Tartu, Estonia): Readjusting to “Normality” During Fieldwork in the Italian Alps during COVID-19 Times

16.20 Closing words

Keynote Speakers

Ulla Savolainen

Dr., Title of Docent
Kone Foundation Senior Research Fellow
University of Helsinki, Department of Cultures, Folklore Studies

[Photo credit: Niclas Mäkelä]


Ulla Savolainen works as Kone Foundation Senior Research Fellow at the University of Helsinki, Department of Cultures. She is a folklorist specializing in memory studies, oral history, and narrative research, with an interest in experiences and expressions related to (forced) migration, transnationality, and materiality. Savolainen's current research project focuses on memories and experiences of Stalinist repression and displacement of Ingrian Finns. She has analyzed the mnemonic capacities of e.g. memoirs, fiction, museum exhibitions, and photographs and explored the political and aesthetic values and ideologies related to memory in culture more broadly. Previously, Savolainen has researched oral histories of internments of German and Hungarian citizens in Finland in 1944–1946. Her doctoral dissertation (2015) focused on the life writings of former Karelian child evacuees in Finland. Savolainen's recent publications include an edited collection The Legacies of Soviet Repression and Displacement: The Multiple and Mobile Lives of Memories (with Samira Saramo, Routledge 2023) and a popular non-fiction book Sodan ja karkotuksen lapset: Inkeriläisiä elämäntarinoita ('Children of War and Deportations: Ingrian Life Stories', with Maiju Korte, Into 2023). She has published her research in e.g. Memory Studies, Narrative Inquiry, Journal of American Folklore, Oral History, Ethnologia Europaea, and Poetics Today.


The Field of Memory Culture: Ingrian Finns’ Historical Experiences through Multiple Media and Times

Ingria was a historically multicultural border area surrounding the present day city of Saint Petersburg in Russia inhabited by several ethnic groups including the Ingrian Finns. During the 20th century, Ingrian Finns suffered from Stalinist repression and multiple displacements. Although the repressive policies of the Stalin-era effected the population of the Soviet Union widely, ethnic and national minorities bore disproportioned burden of the state violence. In the case of Ingrian Finns, the repressive policies led to significant loss of lives and the drastic dispersion of Ingrian Finnish communities. Although this history has arguably become the cornerstone of the memory culture, history narrative, and collective identity of Ingrian Finns, the broader public acknowledgement, societal and political relevance, as well as perceived significance of Ingrian Finns’ history and experiences of oppression has fluctuated several times over the course of decades in Finland. Public reactions to this history and experiences have alternated between indifference, acknowledgement, and their instrumental use.

In this presentation, I will focus on exploring the nature of my field, that is, memory cultures around Ingrian Finns’ historical experiences. By analyzing versatile articulations and changing roles of Ingrian Finns’ pasts through exploration of literary testimonies, memorabilia, and museum exhibition as well as the multiple temporalities, scales, and actors involved, I will propose that the field of memory culture is an ever-evolving assemblage through which the role and relevance ascribed to historical memories and experiences as well as creative expressions are constantly negotiated. Furthermore, I will suggest that seeing the field of memory culture as an assemblage may promote better understanding of the highly selective, exclusive, and affective processes connected to cultural memory that both generate and reflect cultural value, visibility, and agency.


PhD, Associate Professor
Rīga Stradiņš University, Faculty of Communication


Klāvs Sedlenieks is a social anthropologist who has done research in Montenegro and in Latvia. His research interests range from peaceful societies to informal economics to the state and kinship. Klāvs Sedlenieks has been one of the pioneering social anthropologists in Latvia, being among the founders of the Latvian Association of Anthropologists and establishing the first academic study programme of the field in Latvia. He is also an active participant in public discussions, often commenting on actual social developments in Latvian mass media.


In Search for Unknown Unknowns – Why Fieldwork is still the Way!

According to “The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity” “research is the quest for knowledge obtained through systematic study, thinking, observation, and experimentation” while fieldwork can be defined as any kind of research activity that is done outside the laboratory. Still, in this speech I want to discuss the idea that the (perhaps—the only) way to discover the world in the proper sense of the word is through fieldwork, that is—working directly with the world as it is. In the title of this presentation, I refer to a famous distinction between the “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” made by US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld back in 2002. Researchers often work in the field of “known unknowns”, that is they know that they do not know something and are looking for answers. However, the true discovery (or—intellectually the most rewarding one) lies in the fields that we even do not know exist. Or at least so it has been in my experience—the premeditated research questions have often not led to answers that I liked. Instead, while looking for these answers, other problems, questions, and answers popped up and lead the train of thought in a different, more rewarding direction; this was enabled by the fieldwork information and experience. To illustrate this idea, I will refer to my fieldwork in a small village in Montenegro and a research project in Latvia. In the first case, I initially wanted to explore informal forms of governance, but discovered the importance of fantoms in the way we understand and enact the state. In the other case, our research team was looking for information flows explaining why elderly people were hesitant to vaccinate against Covid-19 but discovered that the most likely reason was that they were cut out from the system of medical care already before the pandemic struck and that information as such was of little importance.


Terje Toomistu “SOVIET HIPPIES” (2017)

The hippie movement that captivated hundreds of thousands of young people in the West had a profound impact on the other side of the Iron Curtain. In the Soviet Union, a colourful crowd of artists, musicians, freaks, vagabonds, and other long-haired dropouts created their own system, which connected those who believed in peace, love, and freedom. More than 40 years later, a group of eccentric hippies from Estonia take a road trip to Moscow where the hippies still gather annually on the 1st of June for a celebration that is related to the tragic event in 1971, when thousands of Soviet hippies were arrested by the KGB while attempting to protest against the war in Vietnam. The documentary shifts between observational material of the main protagonists today and the historical narrative in a creative combination of oral history, music from the era, photographs, Soviet animations, newly-created animations, and rich archival footage create a pathbreaking journey to the little-known world of the Soviet hippies in which these people strove for freedom.

More info and trailer:

Before the screening, Terje Toomistu will introduce the film both from a historical and artistic angle and explain the process of research and production, paying particular reverence to the usage of oral history and archival material, its possibilities and limitations. These deliberations are continued after the screening for a question-and-answer session.


Terje Toomistu ( is an anthropologist from Estonia, currently employed as a Research Fellow at the University of Tartu. Having conducted extensive field research in Russia and Indonesia, she was a Fulbright scholar at the University of California Berkeley (2013-2014) and a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam (2017-2018). She is also a recognized documentary filmmaker and often deploys artistic methods in her research.


Last time modified: 05.09.2023 13:46:18