Tradition through Modernity: Postmodernism and the Nation-State in Folklore Scholarship.

Author:Thompson, Tok
Position:Book review

Tradition through Modernity: Postmodernism and the Nation-State in Folklore Scholarship. By Pertti J. Anttonen. Studia Fennica Folkloristica, 15. (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2005. Pp. 215, preface, introduction, notes, bibliography, index.)

When I was a graduate student in the late Alan Dundes' folklore seminar, he had each one of us select a theoretical topic, get the reading list from him, and then make a presentation for the class. Although I didn't select postmodernism, I was disappointed with the materials available at that time. Later, when I began to write my dissertation research proposal, I included a section on folklore and postmodernism relying in good part on the works of Pertti J. Anttonen. I had acquired my many-xeroxed copy of his research, which had been published in Nordic Frontiers: Recent Issues in Modern Traditional Culture in Nordic Countries (Edited by Pertti J. Anttonen and Reimund Kvideland. NIF Publications 27, 17-33. Turku: Nordic Institute of Folklore, 1993) and passed along for a few years from colleague to colleague before finally landing on my desk. The next year, I noticed a frantic looking graduate student. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that she was to present on postmodernism in the seminar, and Dundes had given her a reference to the article I had used. Unfortunately, it didn't exist on campus, giving rise to her acutely-felt predicament. Future students were destined to follow in her path.

Happily, this unfortunate situation should now be largely rectified with the publication of this important new book by Pertti Anttonen. Not only will this ease the frantic, late-night library searches of graduate students, but it will also bring many scholars to the theoretical scholarship that Anttonen has forcefully tracked and pioneered, by bringing many of his works--both published and unpublished--together in this slim but dense volume.

His focus is on tradition, post/modernity, and the nation-state. "My starting point is that the concept of tradition is inseparable from the idea and experience of modernity ...", and that "... since the concepts of tradition and modern are fundamentally modern, what they aim to and are able to describe, report, and denote is epistemologically modern" (12). Tradition in his view is a creation of modernity, giving the self-imagined nation a claim to the state status. This view turns on its head the more usual outlook in which tradition and modernity are...

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