Habitus

Habitus / Sustainability of Latvian Cultural Traditions in an Innovative Environment

Summary

Programme “Sustainability of Latvian Cultural Traditions in an Innovative Environment” is carried out by interdisciplinary, inter-university researchers’ group in cooperation with national and international stakeholders in the field of intangible cultural heritage. The aim of the programme is to define preconditions of preserving and criteria for continuity of Latvian national identity forming traditions in a changing and innovative environment. The monitoring system of the Song and Dance Festival and revitalisation of its continuity will be the major results of the programme. The monitoring system will be adjustable for surveying both the festivals in other Baltic states and other intangible cultural heritage traditions. The programme will contribute to the growth of younger generation in the arts. As the results of the programme will be based on the set of broad, internationally comparable empirical data, they will increase theoretical knowledge about the preconditions of continuity of the tradition in a shifting cultural, social, economic and political environment.

Aim and tasks

The aim of the programme “Sustainability of Latvian Cultural Traditions in an Innovative Environment” is to define internationally comparable preconditions of preserving and criteria for continuity of Latvian national identity forming traditions in a changing and innovative environment.

The following tasks will be accomplished:

  1. To research cultural, social, economic, technological, and political dimension of the Song and Dance Festival tradition and to characterise significance of each dimension.
  2. To carry out a comparative study of the intangible cultural heritage rights, proposing solutions for preservation of intangible cultural heritage including Song and Dance Festival in Latvia.
  3. Based on research data, develop theoretical argumentation for the law “On Preservation of Latvian Intangible Cultural Heritage” that is carried out by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with Latvian National Centre for Culture.
  4. To elaborate a set of qualitative and quantitative indicators for defining sustainability of the Song and Dance Festival; test it in a comparative (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) study on sustainability of the Song and Dance Festivals, to develop scenarios for the development of Song and Dance Festival tradition and to design monitoring system for the revitalisation of tradition that could be adapted in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
  5. To adjust and adapt the criteria of the sustainability of Song and Dance festival tradition for evaluation of sustainable growth of other cultural traditions that are forming national identity (e.g., annual festivities, such as Midsummer night festivity or cemetery festivity, singing tradition, cooking traditions etc.).
  6. To communicate results of the research on local, regional, national and international level in conferences, seminars, academic publications and monograph.

Summary of main problems and context

Latvian cultural traditions being part of cultural heritage are significant factors that form national identity. Today continuity of traditions are influenced by the changes in demography of generations, commercialization of traditional life-style components, development of IT, including communication patterns through social media, and by other innovations in social and economic environment. Support to maintenance and development of cultural traditions vary in different communities of society. The diversity of attitudes becomes especially apparent when researching traditional phenomena of Latvian Song and Dance Festival, as in its development about 70% of Latvian inhabitants are involved.

Latvian National Cultural Centre as one of the aims of its mid-term operational strategy (2012-2018) has set the task to strengthen traditions of Song and Dance Festivals as sustainable factors for the development of masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. There is no unified understanding of the substance of these factors either on the level of cultural policy makers, or among practitioners in the field of traditions, or on the academic level. In 2003, the Song and Dance Festival tradition has been included in the list of UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. Since then Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have worked out a common action plan on sustainability of Song and Dance Festival tradition, anticipating to carry out a comparative research on preservation of tradition. That far such research has not been carried out because of several factors. The need to carry out a study has been emphasized during the Baltic Song and Dance Festival Coordination Committee meeting in November, 2013 (in Tallinn).

Currently the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with Latvian National Centre for Culture, cultural experts and NGOs are developing the draft law “On Preservation of Latvian Intangible Cultural Heritage”. It is planned to define preconditions for preserving sustainability of tradition, including those referring to regulations and financial matters.

Cooperation with businesses and impact on society

Study on sustainability of Song and Dance Festival tradition will improve understanding of the role of each stakeholder (participants, leaders of groups, municipalities, state institutions) in the development of traditions. It will also contribute to the development of argumentation for regulations and decisions concerning Song and Dance festivals: planning of repertoire, increasing numbers of participants, integration of commercial elements, standards of artistic quality, financial support and its sources, involvement of minorities and diaspora etc.

The study of Song and Dance festivals will provide with comparative data on the features of continuity of cultural traditions and factors influencing it from different cultural perspectives, as administrative, regulative and financial conditions differ in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia significantly. It increases the academic value of the data in international academic context. Programme results include both the development of new research approach to analyse sustainability of cultural traditions and applied research.

Beneficiaries will be several stakeholder groups, such as the Ministry of Culture (development of regulations and argumentation for financial support), Latvian National Centre for Culture (planning and organisation of Song and Dance Festivals), Latvian National Commission for UNESCO (assessment of the implementation of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 2003), cultural operators, cultural sector in municipalities, leaders of groups participating in Song and Dance Festival, coordinators and participants).

Problem solutions

Research on continuity of traditions will develop ethnographic, aesthetic and value understanding in those society groups that are involved in Song and Dance festival traditions. It will also contribute to cultural participation. Communication activities of the programme will inform society and develop networks among enterprises and stakeholders on regional level, involving also amateur art groups and public policy makers. Monitoring system of traditions will serve as academic and informative argumentation for public and municipal cultural policy making and will develop experience based cultural policy-making. Meanwhile implementation of the monitoring system and law will be a significant precondition for the continuity, preservation and development of traditions.

Former researches and elaboration fore-runs

Previous studies in the following fields will contribute to the research, achievement of the aims and tasks: (a) studies on cultural traditions, including Song and Dance Festivals; (b) studies in the field of intangible cultural heritage and of its legal regulations.

(a) In 2013, a sociological study “My Song and Dance Festivals” has been carried out in Estonia. Both Lithuanian and Estonian researchers are willing to cooperate in developing a comparative study. In Latvia there have been two consecutive studies: “Song and Dance Festivals in Changing Social Environment” (LU, 2007) and “Song Festivals in Changing Social Environment” (LU, 2002). In 2008, a study on “Song and Dance Festivals in Changing Economic Environment” (LZA EI) has been carried out. Latvian Academy of Culture (leaded by Assoc. Prof. Anda Laķe) is carrying out a study on “Social impact of Song and Dance Festivals” (commissioned by the Latvian National Centre for Culture). These studies do not provide data that could lead to the development of preconditions and criteria for the preservation and continuity of traditions that could be applied to simulation of action plans (state, municipal, NGO).

(b) Scientific Research Centre of the Latvian Academy of Culture in cooperation with French institutions Centre National de la recherche scientifique and Centre d’Etudes sur la Coopération Juridique Internationale cooperates in Latvian-French academic research cooperation programme “Osmoze 2014″ in a project Création d’un réseau de réflexion sur le droit du patrimoine culturel immatériel (2014-2015). Its aim is to develop research network for researching legal framework and regulations in the field of intangible cultural heritage on national and international level. The programme “Osmoze 2014″ provides mobility grants for researchers and would be complimentary to the application to National Research Programme.

Social topicality of the programme

  1. Cultural participation. Cultural participation in folk art groups is a significant part of cultural life in Latvian regions. Contribution to the sustainability of traditions will increase cultural participation, particularly in rural areas of Latvia.
  2. Distribution of responsibilities and financial planning. It is indispensable to define clearly competences (NGO, municipalities and state) in the development of traditions and securing sustainability on educational, cultural, and economic levels; to distribute financial responsibilities among state, municipal and private partners, to develop argumentation and criteria in distributing public and municipal funding.
  3. Economic activities. Study on criteria on sustainability of traditions will include criteria and methodology for impact evaluation of economic effects, such as tourism, transport, accommodation, restaurants etc. economic sectors.

Main interim results

The activities that far have been focused on researching manifestations of cultural, social, economic, political dimension of Song and Dance celebration. That will lead to the conclusions about sustainability indicators of Latvian national identity forming traditions. Profound literature review of theoretical sources on tradition and on preservation of intangible cultural heritage has been carried out; a significant amount of quantitative and qualitative empirical data has been collected; moreover, researchers followed policy developments in preservation of intangible cultural heritage and Song and Dance celebration on national and international level. All this makes solid basis for the analysis and development of comparable indicators on sustainability of tradition of the Song and Dance celebration in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The main interim results are as follows.

Elaboration of theoretical substantiation, research methodology and monitoring

An integrated theoretical framework and methodology has been elaborated. Theoretical analysis of the concept of “tradition” has been done, based on different approaches of social sciences and humanities, and methodology to be used for empirical study of the tradition has been developed. Theoretical foundation on the concept of tradition is mainly based on the works on Eric Hobsbawm, Jocelyn Linnekin, Saimon J.Bronner. According to the chosen approach, the Song and Dance Celebration tradition has been considered as a totality of culturally formed and repeated practices, aimed at tradition as intangible power, where the tradition is treated as basically prescriptive, structured and connotative; the Song and Dance Celebration tradition has been considered as strategic activity to maintain social identities and connections with the help of symbolic communication between the involved members and the others; also, it has been considered as renewable resource for the future, providing orientation in individualistic society for humans and ensuring their feeling of belonging.

The theoretical approach and methodological questions have been discussed with partners in USA (University of Washington); United Kingdom (International Centre for Cultural & Heritage Studies of Newcastle University; Heriot-Watt University) and in Lithuania (Cultural Research Institute).

Research methodology has been presented and discussed with peers in the 12th SIEF Congress: Utopias, Realities, Heritages. Ethnographies for the 21st century (Zagreb, Croatia, 21.06.-25.06.2015.); the 11th Conference on Baltic Studies in Europe “Traditions, Transitions, Transfers” (Herder-Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Institute of the Leibniz-Association, Marburg, 06–10.09.2015) and in the plenary session of the International conference of Latvian Academy of Culture “Cultural Crossroads IX” (Riga, 12.11.-14.11.2015.).

A detailed study of the tradition’s five dimensions (cultural, social, economical, technological and political) has been aimed at comparative analysis of each dimension in all periods of the Song and Dance Celebration process (members’ individual motivation, formation of artistic groups, inter-festival and festive periods). The study of all dimensions is tied to the selection of empirically measurable indicators for the comparative study of the Song and Dance Celebration traditions in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The design of the programme’s empirical study is based on a mixed strategy, with the use of quantitative and qualitative methods to obtain data. Methodological approach for application of qualitative methods have been developed, including visual study methods which were tested for the study of everyday practices to inherit the tradition. Researcher Jānis Daugavietis has elaborated and presented to other researchers approach for comparative analysis of qualitative data (methodological report “Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)”).

During this period one doctoral and three master theses have been finalised and defended providing significant contribution in research on sustainability of national identity forming traditions and intangible cultural heritage.

Research findings have been discussed in 6 articles which were published in peer reviewed journals, one of them included in SCOPUS database. 1 article has been published in Latvian journal with local editorial board. 15 theses have been published in conference proceedings. See more detailed information on the results in chapter 1.10.

Strategic leadership group of the Programme has contributed significantly to the development of the Programme and the Project, especially by helping to internationalize project and develop comparative aspects of the Project. Strategic leadership group members are also invited to take part in the regular meetings of the researchers. Interim report of the Strategic leadership group is attached to the report.

The involvement of students of bachelor, master and doctoral level in research can be considered as the project success.

 Collection of empirical data

A large body of empirical (quantitative and qualitative) data has been obtained, these data have been collected within community of participants and artistic directors of amateur art groups participating in Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Song and Dance Celebrations, diaspora of Latvians living abroad, participants of Nordic and Baltic Song Celebrations, local and regional municipality leaders, cultural policy makers and directors of cultural organizations. The study of how the five dimensions of inheritance of tradition express themselves has started with a qualitative research in Kurzeme, Latgale, Vidzeme and Zemgale regions. The connection of tradition with the amateur art movement in regions can be detected through detailed study of political and financial preconditions of the tradition in Jēkabpils, Jūrmala, Salaspils and Valka municipalities. The specific features of the inheritance practice of the Song and Dance Celebration tradition in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia can be detected through the comparison with the Nordic and Baltic Song Celebration participants’ experience (the in-depth interviews with participants of Lithuanian, Estonian, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish amateur art groups).

To develop a comparative analysis how the tradition is inherited and to identify essential factors for the inheritance of the tradition, a quantitative survey of the participants of  the 19th Lithuanian Song Celebration (N 1090 respondents) was carried out in cooperation with Lithuanian Folk Art Centre, and the survey of the participants of Estonian XXVI Song and XIX Dance Celebration (N 1125 respondents) was carried out in cooperation with Estonian Song and Dance Celebration foundation. That was done besides the survey of Latvian Nationwide XXV Song and XV Dance Celebration participants, artistic group founders and artistic leaders of amateur art groups.

Participants of the project have communicated these data in scientific conferences (26 papers have been delivered at international scientific conferences), as well as in seminars for the representatives of cultural institutions and in individual public lectures for educational audiences of different age and professional profile. As an appropriate platform for the approbation of the research results and for communication, a section “Plurality, inheritance and documentation of tradition in innovative environment” within the international scientific conference of Latvian Academy of Culture “Cultural Crossroads” has been organised. See chapter 1.10. for more information.

 Enlarging the scope of research

Among the tasks of the Project has been a mission not only to elaborate a set of qualitative and quantitative indicators for defining sustainability of the  Song and Dance Celebration in Latvia, but also to test it in a comparative (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) study on sustainability of the Song and Dance Celebrations. Moreover, it has been planned to adjust and adapt the criteria of the sustainability of Song and Dance Celebration tradition for evaluation of sustainable growth of other cultural traditions that are forming national identity (e.g., annual festivities, such as Midsummer night festivity or cemetery festivity, singing tradition, cooking traditions etc.).

Significant efforts have been dedicated to collect empirical data in Lithuania and Estonia. In the following periods these data will be analysed in a comparative study. Moreover, the initial idea of regional comparison has been enlarged and researchers have looked for internationally comparative examples.

The work has been done to study international law of the intangible cultural heritage sphere from the academic and cultural policy-making viewpoint. The realization of the work tasks has been promoted by the cooperation with French scholars – the Institute of Political Social Sciences (Institut des Sciences Sociales du Politique, ISP), National Centre of Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, ISP-CNRS). The international research seminar “Intangible cultural heritage: national and subjective rights” organized during the reference period, in Rīga and Kuldīga has promoted the development of scholarly discussion about the problems of comparison of the intangible cultural heritage rights, and this directly pertains to the methods how to evaluate the experiences of the Baltic countries. The final formulation of the questionnaire to compare intangible cultural heritage law in different countries, made in November 2015, can be considered as essentially important in comparative study of legislation, henceforth it is possible to organize its distribution.

In the reference period Latvian Academy of Culture has participated as a partner in three international applications for the EU financing of the research, all three applications were related to topics of cultural heritage. The applications were prepared and handed in for the programme Horizon 2020 (one application) and for the programme HERA (two applications). The work on the applications has significantly raised the capacity of  the project researchers as international scholarly team and has strengthened their international reputation and competitiveness. Moreover, the application to Horizon 2020 sub-programme “Europe in the changing world: inclusive, innovative and reflective societies” has been successful. International research project CoHERE (“Critical Heritages: Performing and Representing Identities in Europe”) along with 11 other partners will be realized in the period from April 2016 until Spring 2019, and its total financing from the EU programme Horizon 2020 is 2.5 million EUR, the total financing for Latvian Academy of Culture is 150,411 EUR in three years, and this is indicative of the scope of the planned research.

The study of other forms of tradition is carried out, in parallel to the identification of Song and Dance Celebration development criteria in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. These other forms of tradition to be studied are, for example, food preparation (A. Spalvēna’s thesis), expressions of singing tradition in the form of political protest (G. Šmidchens) and others, in accord with the developed methodology and design of the research.

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