Linguistic anthropology research
"Lament Revival: Healing with Lament"
Dr. Wilce’s current research project focuses on the
“revival” (more accurately a “reinvention”) of lament (improvised crying
songs), sung in a very particular linguistic register, and currently
contextualized as a form of self-help therapy. The project centers on the
revival of lament in Finland, spearheaded by Äänellä Itkijät, ry (the Finnish
This ongoing linguistic and ethnographic investigation has
led to rich collaboration with scholars and activists in Finland, as well as a
stream of articles under preparation. The project extends Dr. Wilce’s longterm
interest in language and emotion, performance, semiotics, power, and healing.
The current Finland project will contribute to our theories
of culture, change, and revival, offering a vision of culture as something
conscious and intentionally manipulable rather than unconsciously inherited.
The Lament Society sees its task as helping the (putatively) emotionally
challenged Finnish majority by offering them linguistic/poetic/musical/cultural
techniques associated with lament and fostered traditionally by ethnic
minorities in Finland and neighboring countries—Finnic peoples such as
The next stage of the project, to be funded (hopefully) in
2011, will examine “emotion pedagogies” more broadly in Finland, from a
curriculum for K-6 students that teaches them to talk about their own feelings
and empathize with others, to New Age courses that combine lessons in
expressing feelings more assertively with shamanistic elements.