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SCAND 334 / CLIT 334:
Immigrant and Ethnic Folklore:
Culture and Identity

Spring Quarter 2009 


Instructor: Guntis Smidchens 
Office: Raitt Hall 305 T 
Office Hours: Tuesdays 3:00-4:00 pm 
e-mail: guntiss@u.washington.edu  
Phone: (206) 616-5224 

Class Meeting Times: MW 3:30-5:20, Sieg Hall 226

Course Description

This course studies the folklore traditions maintained by immigrant and ethnic communities in the Nordic and Baltic States.  How are their ethnic culture and identity related to cultural unity and diversity in their countries, and in the world?  Theories of ethnic folklore research and interpretations of traditions, particularly ideas proposed by Nordic and Baltic scholars, will be evaluated and applied to the study of living folklore traditions.  Comparative examples will be found in communities of European immigrants in North America.  

Course Objectives

  • Learn about people and traditions:
    • Learn the historical background of immigrant and ethnic communities in the Nordic and Baltic countries. 
    • Learn examples of folk traditions practiced or remembered in these communities.
  • Encounter theories and interpretations of ethnic identity:
    • Learn a variety of approaches to immigrant and ethnic folklore, and some "classic" interpretations proposed over the past century.
  • Become an expert on one immigrant or ethnic group:
    • Learn how to find and use research tools for the study of immigrant and ethnic folklore (online databases, web archives, published sources).
    • Experience folklore fieldwork:  Make contact with living people in the "field" to compile information about folklore traditions in immigrant and ethnic communities.
    • Do ethnography: Document and interpret living folk traditions.   


    Quizzes and Class Participation: 25%
    Final examination, 25%
    Four preliminary research reports 25%
    Final Research Report, 25%

Required Readings

  • Fredrik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference
  • Anna-Leena Siikala et al., Creating Diversities: Folklore, Religion and the Politics of Heritage
  • Unni Wikan, Generous Betrayal: Politics of Culture in the New Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).
  • Stern, Stephen and John Cicala, Creative Ethnicity: Symbols and Strategies of Contemporary Ethnic Life.
  • Additional reading assignments as listed in the lecture schedule



Last Updated: 04/22/2009 

Contact the instructor at: guntiss@u.washington.edu