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Ritual Year Working Group

Report on the 14th Conference of the SIEF Ritual Year Working Group "Commerce and Traditions" held in Riga at the National Library of Latvia.

On 1–4 June 2022, the Archives of Latvian Folklore (ILFA) hosted the SIEF Ritual Year Working Group annual conference Commerce and Traditions at the National Library of Latvia.

The conference focused on the relationship between commerce and traditional culture, and aimed to investigate and evaluate the impact of marketing practices on traditions and rituals, and to consider the changes commercialization has brought about – both positive and negative – in the past as well as in the present. The conference invited researchers to focus on themes and issues that reveal the presence of commerce in traditional cultural practices and processes; to examine the role of commerce in the preservation of traditions, including national, religious and state festivals; and to analyze the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on festive traditions.

The diversity of the conference's content and the wide range of speakers showed that both hidden and open commerce are increasingly evident in the organization and content of various festivals today. Although there are now public objections to the excessive association of various festivals, including religious festivals, with commerce, historically the commercial opportunities at various events have helped to preserve and promote traditions that might otherwise have been lost, thus also providing opportunities for the development of traditional crafts. In today's digital and social networking age, commerce also plays an important role in preserving and strengthening existing traditions and in creating new ones.

The conference was planned to take place mainly as a face-to-face event at the National Library of Latvia, respecting epidemiological restrictions and at the same time providing the possibility of online presentations on the Zoom platform. However, due to the Russian military aggression and the resulting war in Ukraine, several participants had to cancel their participation. The conference was attended by 42 researchers from Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, USA, Bulgaria, Norway, France, Russia, Romania and other countries. 17 researchers participated in the face-to-face conference, while 23 speakers chose the online option, presenting a total of 40 scientific presentations. Abstracts of the papers have been published in an electronic abstract book. The timing of the conference was aligned with the annual fair organized by the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia, including a visit to the fair, thus introducing researchers from different countries to Latvian traditional culture and ethnography and providing an opportunity to observe the presence of commercialization in the preservation of traditional craft trades.

A website and a special conference and publicity design by artist Krišs Salmanis were created to reflect the content and the proceedings of the conference. The public was informed about the conference news on the LFMI and LFK websites and social media accounts.

The organizers' wish to promote the inclusion of Latvian traditional culture research in the international arena, to strengthen cooperation with researchers and research institutions from other countries, to promote the international recognition of Latvian culture and its research was successfully realized. The organization of the conference, its organization and the publication of the proceedings were supported by the International Society of Ethnology and Folklore, the Basic budget sub-programme 05.04.00 "Krišjānis Barons' Cabinet of Songs" of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia and the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia (project No 2022-1-TRK025).