Linguistic anthropology research

Finland's "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 Lament Society).

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 Karelians.

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.