Message from SIEF's president
The 21st century has smiled upon SIEF. We have had a series of strong congresses from 2001 to 2013. From Budapest to Marseille and from Derry to Lisbon and Tartu, our congresses have been a success story. SIEF has momentum.
I joined SIEF in 2002 and attended my first SIEF congress in Marseille in 2004. Over the past decade, I have witnessed the enthusiasm for our meetings grow and our society flourish. In 2004, SIEF members were 180 and their number had been more or less stable for a long time. At the Tartu congress in 2013, members numbered 540. SIEF is now three times the size it used to be. If we keep the momentum going, we will be more numerous still when we meet in Zagreb in 2015.
In the last dozen years, SIEF has also grown a secretariat, a newsletter, a website, a members directory, and a young scholar prize. SIEF's congresses are now biennial, which means that members can relate to SIEF as their primary international affiliation—their professional family in Europe. The biennial SIEF congress is an intellectual festival where we showcase the state of the art in our fields and it is a ritual time in the academic calendar, crucial for carrying the fields forward, building professional networks, hatching collaborative projects, and cultivating friendships.
Taken together, these are major milestones in the professional development of our society—it has come of age. In 2014, SIEF turns 50, so one might say it's about time. After a period of unprecedented expansion, we have an opportunity now to deepen our cooperation, and to make SIEF matter even more to all of us, in our work, our research, and our careers. The years ahead will be a period of consolidation. SIEF needs to make clear what it stands for and how it will invest its considerable strength and energy.
To my mind, SIEF—the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore—is a pluridisciplinary organization, centered in and around the twin fields in its name. Like the fields it represents, SIEF is eclectic and open-minded. It is and ought to be promiscuous in its disciplinary relations, while keeping faith with its founding values and vision; undisciplined, so to speak, but sure of itself and "bien dans sa peau" -- comfortable in its own skin and not timid to share it with others.
As I see them, ethnology and folklore belong to the extended family of anthropological sciences. They are fieldwork-based and historically informed, grounded in archives and museums, conversant with texts as well as things and images. With a long-standing tradition of social engagement and public intellectuals, ethnologists and folklorists focus on vernacular culture and everyday life and they concern themselves in particular with cultural forms, their uses and social circulation: whether these forms are material or verbal, aural or visual, textual, spatial, corporeal, or musical. By way of illustration, themes of recent SIEF congresses include Circulation (Tartu 2013), Ways of feeling the world (Lisbon 2011), and Liberating the ethnological imagination (Derry 2008).
Some salient topics from the congress in Tartu demonstrate the compass of the research that SIEF brings into dialogue: spatial imagination and imaginaries of home, locality, migration, mobility, collections, seriality, sensory knowledge, body techniques and corporeality, food styles, orality, morality, ideologies of merit, digital re-mediation, ethnic caricatures, narrative economies, musical subcultures, gender, sexuality, feast and ritual, the hydrologic cycle, knowledge production, archives, museums, cultural memory, heritage logics and heritage fractures.
Between congresses, SIEF's working groups provide platforms for critical debate, networking, and exchange of information; they organize meetings and sponsor publications. We encourage you to take part in their work; there are no fees to pay and all it takes to join one is an e-mail to the chairperson.
SIEF members are also invited to propose new working groups in areas of special interest. Among topics in ethnology and folklore that are ripe and ready for a SIEF working group of their own, the following spring to mind: museums, narrative, migration/mobility, the body, tourism, performance, disciplinary histories, visual culture, digital culture, and material culture. Of course, any number of other topics is viable, as long as they fire up SIEF members and bring them into critical dialogue with one another. Proposals for new groups should include a mission statement and a formal structure and they need to be seconded by at least five SIEF members.
Our fields are nothing if they are not international. The important conversations that take us forward are carried out across national borders. With its biennial congress, working groups, website, and publications, SIEF helps us have these conversations. Together, we are stronger. Together, we are more interesting.
The SIEF board is here is to help make these conversations happen and to give direction to the society's activities. As SIEF's president, I will lead that work to the best of my abilities.
But in the last analysis, it's all up to you. And if you ask me, that's cause for optimism.
Valdimar Tr. Hafstein