Folklore studies examines unofficial cultural forms of communication and expression. Through their activities – in both everyday interaction, rituals and various oral and written media – individuals and communities alter folklore and produce new meanings of historical continuity. Tradition and cultural heritage are collective, and scholars of folklore interpret them in relation to the past.
Classic research subjects in folklore studies include folk poetry, folk religion, tales and other types of stories, folk medicine and magic, as well as proverbs and riddles. Folklore studies also examines phenomena of contemporary culture, such as memes. Central to the discipline are authoritative or marginalised stories: myths, rituals and oral history, through which people construct identities and worldviews. In a world of new modes of communication and multiculturalism, folklorists study methods of thinking and expression that both unite different periods and cultures, and give them their own distinctive characteristics.
Even though folklore studies is often considered in the context of Finland, it has always been international as well, with a handful of well-known researchers focusing their attention beyond Finland’s borders. In addition to the study of neighbouring regions, research on cultures outside Europe has also gained traction. Folklorists at the University of Helsinki publish a significant number of their books and articles in English, Russian, Swedish and German. Through Finnish publication series, our research reaches an international audience, with Folklore Fellows' Communications (FFC) and Studia Fennica Folkloristica being the most important.
The discipline of folklore studies at the University of Helsinki also publishes the RMN Newsletter, a peer-reviewed journal.