Cultural Analysis, Volume 13, 2014
When the Folklorists Won the Battle but Lost the War:
Reidar Th. Christiansen, CIAP president from 1954 to 1964 (to the left), having a relaxed chat with CIAP Board member Stith Thompson, Bloomington. Probably around 1960. Stith Thompson participated at the Brussels meeting in 1962. Place and photographer unknown. Photo belonging to Elin Christiansen Smit.
Erixon was urged to stand for the presidency in 1954, but be preferred the rank of ordinary member of the Executive Board. Instead he launched another candidate, the folklore professor Reidar Th. Christiansen from Oslo, who was elected—and who would remain CIAP's president for the next ten years. Jorge Dias, professor of ethnology in Lisbon, was elected to the office of general secretary, and as treasurer, Ernst Baumann, a folklorist from Basel. Jorge Dias (1907-1973), who held the same view as Erixon on European ethnology, was an efficient administrator as well as an excellent scholar. When Erixon proposed Christiansen for the presidency, it was probably because Christiansen was a folklorist who regarded folklore and ethnology as two faces of the same coin (Rogan 2012a). Erixon knew only too well that the great majority of European folklorists opposed his vision for a common discipline. With Christiansen to front CIAP, Erixon would have better chances to reach his goal.
At the Arnhem congress in September 1955 and the follow-up symposium in Amsterdam, optimism still reigned after the remoulding of CIAP in 1954 (Rogan 2011). The congress was hosted by Winand Roukens but organized by Dias. The scholarly focus was on cartography and a European atlas of popular culture, and there was an important debate on the profile and scope of European ethnology and the naming of the discipline, especially whether the term "folklore" should be used. The follow-up symposium in Amsterdam just after the congress stated in a recommendation10 that the term "folklore" should be used on a national level, in countries where there was a tradition for this designation, whereas the name on the international level should be "ethnology," for a field embracing spiritual, material and social culture. If desired, the qualifying epithet "regional" or "national" might be used, to distinguish it from (social) anthropology or the study of primitive or non-literate cultures. This consensus would not last long, however. The resistance was especially hard in German-speaking Europe, where the scholars wanted to stick to the traditional concepts (and dichotomy) of Volkskunde and Völkerkunde.
Furthermore, problems on the administrative side would soon pile up again. The general secretary Jorge Dias (1907-1973) found the office strenuous, the membership system difficult to administer and the fees hard to collect.11 When the treasurer Baumann died in December 1955, no one was willing to take over the treasury. The economy of CIAP was a permanent headache. Dias, who had more than enough to do in Portugal as well as in the Portuguese colonies, threw in the towel after three years.
President Reidar Th. Christiansen (1886-1971) was an acknowledged folklore scholar with long experience of international relations. But he was a prudent person who shunned conflicts12 —and conflicts were precisely what he encountered in CIAP. He had long absences, when his research and periods as visiting professor led him to England, to Ireland and to the United States (Rogan 2012a). During the first part of his presidency he spent two years abroad (1956-58), when he probably paid little attention to CIAP. Furthermore, he turned 70 in 1958, his health was not strong, and as a retired professor he had no infrastructure to lean upon. The physical distance from Oslo to Paris, the seat of CIAP's only benefactor UNESCO, was also a complicating factor. When Jorge Dias decided to resign in spring 1957, Christiansen lost almost all administrative support and was stuck in a trap he never got out of. As he wrote to Sigurd Erixon in 1959, when the problems piled up: "I regret sincerely that I did not resign, I too, when the secretary left. But I thought for honour's sake that I had to try and keep things going."13
In July 1957, Winand Roukens, director of Het Nederlands Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem, accepted the double function of general secretary and treasurer. But the inherent problems of the national committees and his lack of success in collecting overdue fees, made him resign after only five months.14
The bylaws of CIAP prescribed a Board meeting once a year, but between 1955 and 1964 there were only two regular Board meetings: in Paris 1957 and in Kiel 1959. Due to lack of money to cover travel costs, Board members met only occasionally at other folklore congresses. No General Assembly was arranged after 1955 and there were no regular elections between 1954 and 1964. As UNESCO required that its member organizations hold regular elections and assemblies, the danger of exclusion from CISPH was imminent.
These problems should by no means be attributed to the president only. With the exception of Sigurd Erixon, and to some extent the Belgian Vice President Albert Marinus, CIAP Board members were passive. In a series of letters to Erixon, Christiansen repeatedly mentions the difficulties of getting response and support from the others for arranging meetings. And the more or less non-existent national committees seldom answered summons or invoices.15
CIAP's difficult relations to CIPSH and UNESCO would become a recurrent theme in the following years. A certain percentage of the membership fees should be returned to CIPSH, in return for more substantial allocations back to CIAP for scholarly projects. From 1957 onwards, UNESCO repeatedly complained about lacking return payments. UNESCO threatened to reduce or withhold its subventions for the bibliography and the dictionary, as their publication was seriously delayed. In 1957, UNESCO had signalled that a fusion with another member organization, IUAES (The International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences), was desirable, and in 1959 CIAP had to accept a de facto joint representation with IUAES in CIPSH. If the ethnologists saw this as a minor evil—they only feared a harder competition for the allocations—many folklorists feared an anthropologization of their discipline.
By the end of the 1950s, CIAP was by most standards bankrupt and paralyzed. President Christiansen constantly sought advice from Erixon, his only confidant, but he seemed incapable of taking any initiatives, as well as of resigning, only hoping for more generous credits or asking for deferments from an unwilling and critical UNESCO administration. In this situation, Sigurd Erixon, an ordinary Board member for all practical purposes, with the consent of Christiansen, took over the leadership in CIAP, while Christiansen nominally remained president.16 However, this "Nordic alliance" would soon be challenged by a much younger colleague, Kurt Ranke, professor of Volkskunde in Göttingen.
Some Glimpses of the Way to Athens
In August 1959, Kurt Ranke organised a congress on folk narrative research in Kiel, where he offered a venue for a CIAP meeting. The German CIAP member Helmut Dölker (Stuttgart) was present, but it was the non-member Ranke who offered to help CIAP economically and to support CIAP's Internationale Volkskundliche Bibliographie—on the condition that the administration of the bibliography be transferred from Switzerland to Germany and a German publishing house take over the publishing. Certainly, the issue had been agreed on beforehand with the editor Robert Wildhaber.
Those present at the meeting in Kiel decided to convene in Oslo to discuss a reorganization of CIAP. Christiansen obtained a small allowance from UNESCO for an "expert meeting" in Oslo in September 1961. But in addition to Christiansen, only two CIAP members met there: Erixon and Roukens. Non-member Ranke, however, came up from Göttingen. Ranke was by far the most active in the discussions, and he proposed a close cooperation between CIAP and the German Zentralarchiv der Volkserzählung in Marburg. A working group was established to propose new by-laws for CIAP, with Ranke as leader and Erixon, Roukens and Åke Hultkrantz as members. It is clear from his correspondence with Erixon that Christiansen disliked Ranke's involvement and his proposal for a "German-dominated Verein,"17 and he disapproved of the idea of a working group.
The working group never convened, in spite of several reminders from Erixon. In April 1962 Ranke unexpectedly came up with a Memorandum der Kommission zur Reorganisation der CIAP. Instead of a proposal for amended bylaws—the task given to the working group in Oslo—it contained a full program for a new society. The text argues for a Regionalethnologie covering all fields of ethnology and folklore. It is surprising that Ranke argued so forcefully for what he called a Verein für moderne kritisch-empirischer Social- und Kulturwissenschaft. The text proposed an expansive and ambitious program. Erixon was content with the scholarly profile of the Verein in Ranke's Memorandum, but more uncertain about the proposed new membership structure.
During spring and summer of 1962, Erixon was squeezed between the entrepreneurial Ranke and the passive Christiansen. Erixon tried to organize a dialogue within the working group to revise the text, but Ranke made himself inaccessible. He neither answered letters nor gave the group a chance to discuss the text. On Ranke's proposal—or rather order—CIAP's Board was summoned to meet in September 1962, at the founding congress of his International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR). The congress was hosted by Karel Peeters, professor of folklore in Antwerp, and it was combined with the 25 years jubilee for the Royal Belgian Folklore Commission (in Brussels).
From the Brussel meeting, 1962. Front row, from left: Sigurd Erixon (Stockholm), Paul de Keyser (Gent), Roger Lecotté (Paris), unknown person, Olav Bø (Oslo). Photo cut. Photographer unknown © Nordiska museet.
Only four CIAP members met in Brussels, Christiansen being absent. According to Erixon it was a farce and a first putsch.18 Ranke and the Belgian hosts had not provided the necessary secretarial assistance to the CIAP assembly; the venue and the day of the meeting were suddenly changed, a new agenda was presented and distributed together with Ranke's Memorandum. The folklorists at the ISFNR congress were invited to join the CIAP meeting and to vote! The most active persons—according to Erixon—were an arrogant Ranke and a very aggressive Robert Wildhaber:19
[... During the deliberations, Stith] Thompson demanded that a new committee be appointed, to formulate new paragraphs, and he offered to go to Paris himself and talk with [Jean] d'Ormesson [UNESCO] and later to present the case for you [Christiansen]. [Robert] Wildhaber reacted with frenzy to this proposal. He was suddenly lit by a flame to new deeds. So energetic and excited as he was in Brussels have I never seen him before. The Belgians supported him. Lecotté [see below] mentioned that he, as a Parisian, knew what UNESCO would think and that he had so strong an influence himself that there was no need for the services of Thompson.
Erixon, who was the only ethnologist among approximately thirty folklorists, tried to argue for more formal procedures, but as he reported in his letter afterwards to Christiansen:20
But to no avail. It was decided, by members and non-members alike, that Ranke's proposal be adopted and that a committee should be appointed and given the mission to formulate new bylaws. On Ranke's instructions, the following members were elected: … [Robert Wildhaber (Basel), Karel Peters (Antwerp/Leuwen), Roger Lecotté (Paris), Roger Pinon (Liège) and Ranke himself]. ... Now the masters in Belgium and France have taken the lead, in connivance with Wildhaber and Ranke.
And he adds, not without irony: "Let us hope this will lead to a new vitality for CIAP." The new CIAP committee thus consisted of five folklorists, none of whom were even members of CIAP. Soon after, Ranke must have decided to withdraw to a more inconspicuous position. Of the remaining four, Wildhaber and Peters were professional folklorists with national positions (museum director and university professor), whereas the two latter, who worked in a library and a school, were closer to the amateur folklorist movement. Some time later Pinon reconstructed "Minutes" from the meeting, which according to Erixon were full of errors and omissions and never sent out for approval.21 This private document however became the official platform for the new committee.
The "Gang of Four", as they nicknamed themselves, worked for two years. Three thick reports were distributed to four hundred scholars worldwide, and one thousand pre-printed formulas of adherence to the new organization were distributed—long before it existed! They launched a series of attacks against Christiansen and Erixon—or the "technologist", as this "Gang" used to call ethnologists (because they studied material culture). The documents and incidents are enough to fill a whole book. The Gang soon declared themselves the legal Board of CIAP and started deliberations with UNESCO. They dreamed of a world-embracing organization with splendid headquarters in Brussels —in the fashionable Palais de Congrès or the no less famous Parc du Cinquantenaire. They even appointed close colleagues to the main offices—which did not exist yet! Reading these documents is like entering a novel—in the genre of magic realism. Gabriel Marcia Márquez or Jorge Luis Borges could not have done better!
The Gang of Four, probably 1964. From left: Roger Lecotté (Paris), Roger Pinon (Liège), Robert Wildhaber (Basel), Karel C. Peters (Antwerp). Photographer unknown.
The three reports produced and distributed by the Gang created turmoil. With the tacit consent of Ranke, the Gang soon dismissed the idea of the broad anthropological scope, which Ranke had originally proposed in his Memorandum, an idea that was dear to Erixon and his camp. Concerning the concept of "folklore," the reports triggered two parallel debates, one on the future designation of the organization, another on the contents of the discipline.
With their Germanic background, Wildhaber and Peters were relaxed about a broad conception of folklore, in the sense of Volkskunde (including material and social culture). However, the French-speaking Lecotté and Pinon, who seem to have been the main authors of the reports, argued for the "true" or "pure" folklore as a distinct scholarly discipline with material and social culture left out. The latter two wanted only "folklore" in the name of the organization, and they produced strange strategies for replacing "arts et traditions populaires" in the name of CIAP with "folklore."
This position was untenable for the scholarly community at large, for whom the field and the organization should cover both material and spiritual culture, regardless of whether they conceived of it as one common discipline (as did Erixon, Rivière, Dias, de Rohan-Csermak, Bratani, Steinitz, Meertens and their supporters) or two independent disciplines. Where Erixon wanted only "European ethnology" in the name, a majority found a compromise in keeping the old name for the future organization—of "arts et traditions populaires." This was actually the conclusion of the voting at a meeting in Bonn in April 1964, presided over by Roukens, which Ranke organized in preparation for the CIAP general Assembly in Athens in September. As stated in the minutes from the meeting, this was "a compromise to end all the quarrels on the name of the discipline."22 In Athens however, Ranke found no problem in circumventing this decision.
Peters reported regularly and in detail to Ranke about the work in the committee and sent him copies of the most important letters. In turn, Ranke kept him informed about important developments and offered advice on matters of policy. On occasion, the commander in Göttingen reproached his foot soldiers in Belgium and France when they committed blunders or went too far.
To prepare for the final attack, Ranke organized the abovementioned meeting in Bonn in April 1964, with forty handpicked scholars. The situation before Athens was that two groups claimed the right to convene CIAP and to set the agenda. The reason Ranke chose to convene in Athens was that he would arrange his ISFNR congress there in September. The presence of so many folklorists would give him a safe majority.
What happened then in Athens on September 8 and 9, 1964? There are two sorts of sources, the official minutes and the eyewitness reports. The first give the winners' version, with short, formal notices of the results obtained. The second are the losers' versions, revealing strategic election procedures, violation of procedural rules, and blunt attacks in the closed sessions. The official minutes exclude all that happened behind the scenes, but the eyewitness reports render in detail what they experienced as an unfair battle and a putsch.
Only three CIAP Board members were present. Non-members Ranke and Wildhaber were most active in the debate, and once again all the ISFNR folklorists were allowed to vote. The result was that folklorists took all the seats of the new Board: Karel Peters as president; Mihai Pop, Carl-Herman Tillhagen and Richard Dorson as vice presidents; Roger Pinon as general secretary and Roger Lecotté as treasurer. And Ranke, Roukens and Wildhaber were among the members of the new Administrative Council. The commission was reconstituted as a society and its name was changed from CIAP to SIEF. Thus, the Gang of Four finally managed to secure all the important positions, Ranke obtained his society, and Pinon and Lecotté got folklore into the name.23 The winner takes all!
Kurt Ranke to the right, at the ISFNR congress in Bucharest, August 1970. To the left, Wayland D. Hand, Los Angeles. Photo Klaus Beitl, Vienna.
All were not happy, though. A dissident German voice, Matthias Zender, disliked both the procedure and the result. Having been elected to the new SIEF Council, he offered to step down to give his seat to one of the opponents—Branimir Bratani.24 Geza Csermak-Rohan, CIAP's interim secretary appointed by Christiansen, wrote furiously about electoral campaigns and the ambush by these "Sturmabteilungsmänner."25 I wonder if the expression was used deliberately. Bratani wrote about "the voting machine," "the usurpation of power," "die Alleinherrschaft" of "the folklorists in a narrow sense."26
Personally, I feel uncomfortable with the 1964 event.27 But it is important to discuss how it could happen. The membership question is an issue that needs further discussion. Also, there are some aspects of the study of folklore that may contribute to a better understanding. One is the low degree of professional institutionalization combined with a broad and established amateur movement.
Membership: a Structural Problem
Pre-war CIAP had been based on national committees, as required by the League of Nations. The CIAP of 1947 was re-established on an independent basis, with individual membership. But without economic support for CIAP nothing could be done. Consequently, in 1949 CIAP became a founding member of the UNESCO sub-organization CIPSH—le Conseil International de Philosophie et des Sciences Humaines. From then onwards CIPSH gave regular, earmarked support to the journal Laos, the dictionary and the bibliography, and occasionally allowances for meetings. It looks, however, as if UNESCO did not enforce any membership rules the first years.28
But these allocations were not sufficient and the collecting of fees did not function. UNESCO expressed its discontent with the administration of CIAP, first in 1953, when the general secretary E. Foundoukidis was forced to resign, and then recurrently through the latter half of the 1950s for the missing return payments to UNESCO. When remoulding CIAP a second time after the war (1953/54), Erixon and Rivière reintroduced the system with a membership based on national committees, as required by UNESCO. Both Erixon and Rivière had experience as delegates to UNESCO commissions, and they had better knowledge of the international bureaucracy than most of their colleagues. From 1954 CIAP was again based on national committees, which should each appoint up to three members to its General Assembly, which in turn elected the Executive Council.
However, there were not only economic arguments for this structure. To carry through ambitious projects like the European atlas—Erixon's cherished idea—would require international coordination of research teams on the national level, that is teams (or national committees) invested with the necessary authority and national funding—and not individual researchers.
To this must be added Erixon's strong conviction that European ethnology, his lifelong vision—as presented and developed in article after article from the 1930s to the 1960s—would be much more difficult to develop as a theoretically based, comparative discipline, without an international forum which transcended the various sub-disciplines. And in Erixon's eyes a firmly controlled organization, with an elected and selected membership, would be a safer alternative for reaching that goal, than a loosely organised society (like CIAP in the late 1940s and early 1950s) where scholars and amateurs alike could become members, and where—in his own words—"the dilettantes" reigned.29
But the system of national committees did not function. In many countries the level of institutionalization of folklore and ethnology—in the form of universities, centres and archives—was low; members disappeared and the committees vanished, if they had been appointed at all. As general secretary Dias did not manage to collect the fees and UNESCO therefore did not receive its symbolic contribution, UNESCO threatened to withdraw all support from CIAP, or else to fuse CIAP with its anthropological commission (IUAES). The system of national committees and fees seemed to function for other UNESCO commissions, like for instance the OIM (later ICOM), but not with ethnologists and folklorists.
After three years and more than three hundred letters and reminders, Dias had had enough of non-existing or vanishing national committees. In June 1957 he resigned from his office in CIAP. Winand Roukens took over—only to discover that no more than 10 out of 60 (nominal) national committees had paid.30 After he too threw in the sponge, CIAP was mostly without a secretariat from 1958 and 1961.31
On the other hand, Ranke and the Gang of Four wanted a society based on individual membership. The argument presented in their widely distributed reports seems to have been simply that it was more "democratic." Opposition to leaving the system of national committees came not only from Erixon and Christiansen, but also from central scholars like Rivière and Bratani. Ingeborg Weber-Kellerman and Gerhard Heilfurth (Marburg), the latter the president of one of the few functioning national committees of CIAP—the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde—also reacted negatively to a system based only on individual membership.32 The argument for maintaining the national committee system was not only UNESCO's formal requirement. It was repeatedly argued in the debate that national committees were indispensable for planning and organizing big international projects. And there was the "democracy argument" turned around: designated national delegates would secure a more equal and even representation and prevent special groups from dominating the organization. The latter argument was repeatedly stressed by Rivière, who would never serve on the Board but had obtained the lifelong title of "Advisor to CIAP."
To all those who would never have a chance of being designated through national channels, however, individual membership felt more "democratic." By addressing the proposal to a very large number of scholars and amateurs, the Four would logically get support for individual membership. As demonstrated by the voting in Athens, the majority wanted individual membership. Erixon had proposed (in Bonn, April 1963) a combination of the two systems, but to no avail—his proposal was not even rendered in the minutes from the meeting.
History is full of irony and paradoxes. CIAP/SIEF has alternated between national delegations and individual membership from the 1920s to the 1980s. In 1964, the new SIEF leadership wanted both a new membership system and to keep the contact with UNESCO. But with the change in the membership, the subventions stopped, as predicted by Erixon and Rivière. Only four years later, in 1968, the folklorist-dominated SIEF once more knit contacts with UNESCO and CIPSH, through re-incorporation in the IUAES (The International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences)—an organization they had argued against before 1964. The pretext was economic support for the forthcoming congress in Paris (1970, adjourned to 1971) as well as later allocations.33 A consequence of this renewed affiliation to UNESCO was that SIEF had to renounce its global ambitions and accept being a scholarly society for research on European culture(s)—as a division of labour with the other anthropological associations. At the same time, SIEF expanded its Board to make room for more national representatives.34 Some years later, SIEF reverted to a system of national delegates. To SIEF's 3rd congress, in Zürich in 1987, were invited its 35 national delegates plus specially invited guests, or as stated in the invitation: "SIEF has 35 delegates representing almost all European countries."35 From the 1990s, however, membership has been open once again to all scholars.
A Low Degree of Institutionalization and the Amateur Movement
When Dias resigned as general secretary in 1957, his grievance concerned not only the problems associated with national committees and formal membership. He was also very disappointed with the lack of interest in a general organization, especially among folklorists, many of whom he experienced as an obstacle to CIAP and to the scientific development of the discipline.36 He signalled time and again his scepticism towards the amateurs in the field and his annoyance with the folklorists who claimed to be a separate discipline and often refused to cooperate with ethnologists.37 In a retrospective published in 1964, just before the split in Athens, he stated:
It is difficult to create a[n] organism to co-ordinate the ethnological study of Europe. During the three years I was general secretary of the CIAP I came to know the enormous difficulties, which were always arising, either from lack of internal understanding within some countries, or from lack of the spirit of international collaboration in others. This lack of the spirit of collaboration is due partly to ethnocentric prejudices, which keep ethnologists from admitting that European peoples might be studied by ethnological methods as well as any other peoples. Therefore there are ethnological societies of Africanists, Americanists, Orientalists etc., but an ethnological society of Europeanists is not yet possible. [...] The barrier is certainly due to the different attitudes of folklorists and ethnologists: many folklorists do not want to consider themselves ethnologists, although actually a folklorist is an ethnologist who specializes in oral literature [...]
(Dias 28.10.1963, in Jacobeit 1964, 182-83).
In other texts Dias invoked the low degree of institutionalization of the discipline, the amateurs and their "excessive love of what is regional and particular":
This state of affairs is even worsened by the fact that in many countries there is no university tradition in the field of regional ethnology. All the research is in the hands of small groups of interested amateurs, who [...] are normally opposed to a superior organization, where they fear they may lose the state of personal prestige, which they have conquered in their home setting. (Dias s.a. ).38
A longstanding weak foothold at universities in several countries had marked the discipline profoundly.39 Much collecting and dissemination was performed by dedicated persons with little academic training in folklore studies, their main bases being the local folklore society, the local museum and the local journal. This can be observed through most the 20th century, not least in the former colonial powers, where anthropology was prioritized in the universities. The collecting and the study of the national popular culture were relegated to places outside of the universities, to local folklore societies and museums. Many cases could be cited, but as SIEF now has its legal seat in Amsterdam, let me quote what Pieter Meertens—founder of the Meertens Institute and a partisan of Erixon's policy—wrote about the problem in 1951. He deplored that
In the Netherlands the study of folklore is greatly hampered by its unfavourable position in the curricula of the universities. The place it occupies there is indeed a poor one [...The] study of folklore has for the greater part been left to amateurs. (Meertens s.a./1951).40
Half a century later, his compatriots Peter Jan Margry and Herman Roodenburg give a similar verdict, describing the history of the discipline until the 1990s as "one of a few scholars and numerous amateurs, of a limited interest in research and heavy emphasis on documentation and popularisation" (Margry and Roodenburg 2007, 261).
Let me mention just one case that corresponds to what Dias called the lack of internal understanding and opposition to comparative research among amateur folklorists. In Norway, where folklore was institutionalized very early, the greatest controversy ever concerning disciplinary issues was when the so-called "War of decentralization" broke out around 1920. Hundreds of local folklorists, mostly schoolteachers, had received small public stipends for collecting work. When Professor Knut Liestøl claimed the custodial right to this material, on behalf of the newly established central national archive for folklore at the University, a fierce war broke out. The local collectors created their own organization and claimed property rights to the material collected. To them, the material belonged to the locality where it had been collected; it should be kept there and distributed back to the local population. In Norway this was a forceful ideological and democratic movement, with a sting against an elite institution like the university, as well as against scholarly, comparative research and university professors.41
I mention this Norwegian counter-movement because it comprised a large number of local folklorists who would certainly have been utterly hostile to an international organization, had it been proposed to them. Similar conditions were found in other countries, as for example in Ireland where local collectors tried to fight the centralized Irish Folklore Commission.42
My point is not that folkloristics in general can be reduced to amateurism. In many ways, it was more theoretically inspired than the early material culture studies. But much of the support that The Gang of Four got was from these amateurs, as when they distributed membership formulas to one thousand persons—when there were hardly more than fifty university scholars of folklore and ethnology in Europe.
A Poetic Incident
Among the many repositories of CIAP's/SIEF's history, there is in the collection of SIEF's first president Karel C. Peeters a very strange document—a poem,43 which I admit I do not quite grasp the full meaning of. In September 1964, the Dutch folklorist and philologist Winand Roukens (1896-1974)—the host of the 1955 CIAP congress in Arnhem, and short-term secretary of CIAP (autumn 1957)—was on his way home from Athens. Roukens was in an exuberant mood after the meeting. He made a stop-over in Strasbourg, where he composed a euphoric poem.
The poem is entitled Europa-Gedanken (nach Athènes…)—"Thoughts about Europe (after Athens)"—and bears the dedication "In Freundschaft für Prof. Dr. Kurt Ranke." It is dated September 17, 1964, eight days after the event in Athens, and is signed Winand Roukens, "Athen-Delegierter der Universität Nijmegen."44 It is a pompous poem, with references to Goethe; it is about building bridges between peoples and constructing "the European house"—in the name of humanism, and with clear allusions to the war. But there are also some disturbing elements from legends and folklore.
Europa-Gedanken (Nach Athènes...)
Zur 'Cathédrale' von der 'Hoch-Schule' her schau'ich
still träumend in Hoffnung
mit ... Goethe;
an der Brück' zwischen Völkern hier bau'ich
in Sehnsucht still hoffend
mit Goethe ......
Von Deutschland nach Frankreich hin schau'ich,
wie einst Er, Kurt, nun träumend mit Dir;
am neuen Europahaus bau'ich
in schweigender Stille
mit Sagenhelden Willen
in hoffnungsschwerem Lenken
und ehrfurchtsvollem Gedenken
wie Goethe einst, mit Dir ....
Mit unsern Brüdern schauen wir,
mit unsern Brüdern bauen wir
mit stillem Sagenkämpfermut,
als Opfer für Europablut,
schweigend am Europatempel
mit Goldstrahlendem Widmungsstempel:
TRANSLATION: Thoughts about Europe (after Athens)45
I am staring from the 'high school' towards the 'cathedral'
silently dreaming, filled with hope
with ... Goethe;
I work here on the building of the bridge between peoples
longing and silently hoping
with Goethe ......
I am staring from Germany towards France
as He, Kurt, once did, now dreaming with you;
I work at the construction of the new European house
in a hushed silence
with the will of legendary heroes
guiding heavy with hope
and awe-filled remembrance
as Goethe once did, with you ....
With our brothers we look,
with our brothers we build
with the silent courage of the warriors of the sagas,
as sacrifice for European blood,
silently at the temple of Europe
with the golden shining stamp of dedication:
Indeed, a very strange praise to bestow on a scholar like Ranke, with a dubious past as a prominent member of the Nazi party (NSDAP) and even its Sturmabteilung, and with close ties to Alfred Rosenberg's organization Ahnenerbe and NSDAP's Hohe Schule, where Rosenberg had intended a leading position for him.46It should be added, however, that Roukens was known for his anti-Nazi attitudes during the war, and he was removed from office during the war for his refusal to collaborate with the Germans.47
Or, perhaps not so strange after all? Was SIEF planned as a bridge between a German Volkskunde—that was slowly recovering after its compromises with the Third Reich—and the rest of European ethnology and folklore? "...The bridge between peoples, a new European house," in Roukens' words, including France, the traditional enemy? Was it meant as a kind of exoneration for Ranke for his past in the service of a totalitarian state?
But then there are the dissonances, the folkloristic elements making allusions to a Germanic past: "...with the will of legendary heroes; ...with the silent courage of the warriors of the sagas; ...as sacrifice for European blood"? Is it just clumsy praise couched in romantic vocabulary? This strange text leaves some questions unanswered. It was not a private greeting to Ranke only, but a document that ended in the archives of the new SIEF. Whatever its deeper meaning, the poem confirms what other documents also reveal, that Kurt Ranke was the prime mover behind the new SIEF and that the victorious camp in Athens was effusively happy with the result.
Roukens was a minor figure in European folklore, but he was an efficient lieutenant for the mastermind behind the new SIEF, Kurt Ranke. Ranke was, during most of the process, a withdrawn commander-in-chief. The dirty work was done by his handpicked "Gang of Four," with the assistance of Roukens and a few others. And dirty work it was at times, to judge from the contents of many of the letters and notes that circulated among the Four, not seldom marked "Confidential."
By Way of Conclusion
In the late 1950s CIAP was in a deep crisis—economically, scholarly, morally. Everyone saw the need for a rejuvenation, but there was no unanimity as to the solutions.
Elements that made CIAP a difficult venture was the closed membership system (as required by UNESCO, and desired by several of the protagonists), the low level of institutionalization of the discipline(s), the high number of amateurs with a limited interest in comparative research and scholarly cooperation, and also the philological/literary roots of folklore and hence a certain fear of an anthropologization—as advocated by the Erixon camp.
The campaign towards SIEF (by Ranke and The Gang of Four) was partly based on ideology—that is on the defence or promotion of folklore as an independent discipline. Furthermore, the campaign was conducted strategically; decisions and voting took place only when there was a majority of folklorists present. Ranke's goal of establishing an open society may be viewed as a democratic solution; on the other hand, it opened the doors for that majority of folklorists who would support him against the ethnologists.
This strategy appears clearly from meeting to meeting. CIAP had no resources to organize meetings, and all President Christiansen could do was to convene, at other conferences, those CIAP members who happened to be present. A strange coincidence, or perhaps not: it was always Kurt Ranke who offered to host CIAP at his folklorist conferences; once in Kiel, once in Brussels, twice in Bonn and once in Athens. As Branimir Bratani (Zagreb) put it, if CIAP had chosen the Moscow conference in August 1964 instead of Athens in September, all the ethnologists and ethnographers present in Moscow would have secured a different result.48
The unsolved problem is Kurt Ranke's motives for wanting to control "all there was" of European folklore and ethnology. He already controlled the journal Fabula, the Enzyklopädie des Märchens, and the ISFNR. Why this appetite for CIAP also? Erixon had a clear idea of what he wanted to do with CIAP, but it is hard to see what scholarly results Ranke wanted to obtain.
Was it to promote the progress of European ethnology and international collaboration, as expressed in his Memorandum? As I see it, that was a strategy in an early phase, but not a goal for his campaign. Was it the idea of peace and reconciliation, cf. Roukens' euphoric poem? Hardly, as no such argument was presented during the four years of warfare.
Two plausible explanations remain. Was it a defence of folklore against a rising ethnology, based on a fear of an anthropologization of the field? Or was it simply a quest for personal power? My opinion is that Ranke's campaign was motivated by a combination of these two elements. A strong CIAP might turn out a rival to his ISFNR, but a weak CIAP would do no harm. And an anthropologization of the field might entail other inconveniences for the more traditional, "literary" folklorists. By controlling and reorganizing CIAP the way he wanted, the scholarly landscape would become more clear-cut and folklore would remain an independent discipline.
Ranke's campaign was successful. ISFNR became an important, specialized organization, whereas CIAP/SIEF remained a general but weak umbrella organization. Ranke won the battle, there and then. But by cementing the division of the disciplines and forcing SIEF into several sleepy decades, one may ask whether his interference did not do more harm to European ethnology than actually served the best interests of folklore in a restricted sense.
1For a detailed presentation of the genesis and development of CIAP in its early phase, see Rogan 2007. [ Return to the article ]
2Minutes/Compte-rendu sommaire des travaux de la 1ère session plénière. Paris, Musée de l'Homme, 1-5 oct. 1947. MNATP: Org. APP-CIAP 1947-48-49 etc. [ Return to the article ]
3See Laos vol. III (1955) for a series of presentations of the cartograhy commission and cartography work. [ Return to the article ]
4Erixon 1951. In the first half of the 1950s Erixon published several articles of this type, in Folk-Liv and elsewhere. [ Return to the article ]
5Erixon (ed.) 1956; Rogan 2013, 96-102. [ Return to the article ]
6Letter of September 4, 1950, from J. Thomas, director of the Department for cultural activities, UNESCO. MNATP. [ Return to the article ]
7Note de Monsieur Marinus relative au Secrétaire-Général Monsieur Foundoukidis (undated/August-September 1953). MNATP. [ Return to the article ]
8See stenographied minutes from the Board sessions, Namur. MNATP. [ Return to the article ]
9See correspondence. UNESCO, ICFAF Reg. 39 A01. [ Return to the article ]
10Recommendation from the Amsterdam meeting, September 1955. MEERTENS 35:1131. See also Erixon 1955-56. [ Return to the article ]
11As for the archives, Dias seems to have kept them in good order, with the one curious exception that they suddenly disappeared in 1957, probably stolen. See letter of 7.1.1957 from Vieiga d'Oliveira to Dias. LISBON Box 4. Dias 4. [ Return to the article ]
12Interview with his daughter Elin Christiansen Smit, September 2007. [ Return to the article ]
13Letter of 3.2.1959 from Christiansen to Erixon. SE 8:28. [ Return to the article ]
14On the subject of collecting the fees, see letter of 16.10.1957 from Léopold Schmidt to Roukens. VIENNA, CIAP box 02. Roukens' letter of resignation of 8.1.1959 to Christiansen, ibid.; also in SE 8:28. It should be added that Roukens encountered some serious problems at his museum and was forced to resign from his post as museum director the same autumn. [ Return to the article ]
15See for instance the comprehensive correspondence between Christiansen and Erixon on the problems of arranging a Board meeting in 1958-59. SE 8:28. [ Return to the article ]
16See correspondence between Christiansen and Erixon. SE 8:28, 8:30, 8:31. [ Return to the article ]
17Letter of 29.4.1962 from Christiansen to Erixon, SE 8:27. Other correspondence between the two during spring 1962 (SE 8:27, 8:30, 8:31) confirms Christiansen's unwillingness to follow up Ranke's initiatives. The secretary of the Oslo meeting, Elin Christiansen Smit (Christiansen's daughter), whom I interviewed in 2012-13, has confirmed that the relationship between Christiansen and Ranke was far from hearty. [ Return to the article ]
18Letter of 12.10.1962 from Erixon to Christiansen, SE 8:31. [ Return to the article ]
19Ibid. [ Return to the article ]
20Ibid. [ Return to the article ]
21Letter of 19.12.1962 from Erixon to Christiansen, SE 8:27. [ Return to the article ]
22Compte rendu de la Réunion tenue à Bonn les 26 et 27 avril 1964 en vue d'examiner les dernières propositions de la Commission de Réforme de la CIAP. SE 8:27. Also MNATP. [ Return to the article ]
23For a more general discussion of the name question (CIAP, SIEF), see Rogan 2008b. [ Return to the article ]
24Letters of 17.9.1964 from Zender to Peeters and of 12.10.1964 from Peeters to Zender. MNATP: Peeters 8. [ Return to the article ]
25Letter of 26.9.1964 from de Rohan-Csermak to Nettelbladt. MNATP: Peeters 7. [ Return to the article ]
26Letter of 25.09.1964 from Bratanić to a series of colleagues. SE 8:27. [ Return to the article ]
27For a more detailed treatment of the Athens meeting, see Rogan 2008c. [ Return to the article ]
28This may also be due to a lack of archive sources. The archives after General Secretary E. Foundoukidis, who was fired in 1953 for irregularities and alleged embezzlement, were more or less inexistent. It was E. F. who had been the contact person with UNESCO. [ Return to the article ]
29Manuscript to Erixon's speech, 14.12.1948, on the occasion of the establishment of the Swedish national committee and a discussion whether to join CIAP or not. SE archives, Stockholm. [ Return to the article ]
30Minutes from the Board meeting in Kiel, 18.8.1959. MNATP, Org. App. CIAP. [ Return to the article ]
31 In 1958 Sigurd Erixon persuaded the Swedish doctor Anna-Maja Nylén to function as secretary for CIAP, but she too resigned after a short time. See letter of resignation from Nylén to Erixon of 18.8.1959. SE 8:28. [ Return to the article ]
32Stellungsnahme zu den Vorschlägen der Reorganizationskommission der ‘CIAP', 20.6.1963, signed Heilfurth and Weber-Kellermann. MNATP: Peeters 5; SE 8:31. [ Return to the article ]
33Minutes. Meeting of the Board of Directors in Bucarest on 28th August . MNATP: Peeters 13. [ Return to the article ]
34Minutes. Meeting of the Board of Directors in Bucarest on 28th August . MNATP: Peeters 13. [ Return to the article ]
35SIEF's third congress. "The Life Cycle." April 8-12, 1987. Zürich, Switzerland. MNATP: Comptabilité, Trésorerie (1976-1985). [ Return to the article ]
36Letter of resignation from Dias to Christiansen, 16.4.1957; Dias' Rapport moral sur les activités du secrétariat de la CIAP, 30.5.1957. SE 8:38. [ Return to the article ]
37 Letter of 4.5.1955 from Dias to Rivière. MNATP. [ Return to the article ]
38Dias' Rapport moral sur les activités du secrétariat de la CIAP, 30.5.1957. SE 8:28. Translation B.R. [ Return to the article ]
39See for instance Rogan 2012b for a discussion and further references. [ Return to the article ]
40The State of Folklore in the Netherlands. SE 8:77. [ Return to the article ]
41This battle between amateurs and professionals is treated in several publications in Norwegian, i. a. Kristoffersen 2013, the title of which may be translated as follows: The institutionalization of folk narratives. Norsk Folkeminnesamling [the university archive] and the Battle of decentralization. [ Return to the article ]
42See f. ex. Briody 2011 on the internal fights in the 1920s and 1930s, even within the folklore organizations, where many were indifferent or even hostile to folklore as an international research discipline and opposed a university affiliation. [ Return to the article ]
43Europa-Gedanken …17.9.1964. MNATP: Peeters 8. [ Return to the article ]
44The use of "Delegierter/delegated" in the signature clearly indicates that the backdrop for the poem is CIAP/SIEF, and not ISFNR. Roukens was since 1955 one of 8 members of the CIAP Board, which formally consisted of representatives of the national committees. ISFNR had no such structure. [ Return to the article ]
45Translated by BjR. Thanks to Regina Bendix for assistance with the translation. [ Return to the article ]
46Klee 2005: 479. See also http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Ranke_(Germanist). Date read: 2015-2.22. [ Return to the article ]
47Information from Peter Jan Margry, November 2014. [ Return to the article ]
48Letter of 25.09.1964 from Bratanic to a series of colleagues. SE 8:27. [ Return to the article ]
Actes de la Conférence de Namur de la Commission Internationale des Arts et Traditions Populaires (C.I.A.P.) tenue à Namur du 7 au 12 Septembre 1953. Bruxelles 1956.
Actes du Congrès International d'Ethnologie Régionale (20-24 Septembre 1955). Arnhem 1956.
Erixon, Sigurd (ed.). 1956. International Congress of European and Western Ethnology. Stockholm 1951. Stockholm.
Jacobeit, Wolfgang. 1964. "Intensification of International Cooperation in the Field of European Agrarian Ethnography." Current Anthropology 5(3): 179-190.
Klee, Ernst 2005. Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2. ed.
Kristoffersen, Eirik 2013. Institusjonaliseringen av folkeminnene. Norsk Folkeminnesamling og Desentraliseringsstriden. Master thesis in cultural history, University of Oslo.
Margry, Peter Jan and Hermann Roodenburg. 2007. "A History of Dutch Ethnology in 10½ pages." In Reframing Dutch Culture. Between Otherness and Authenticity, edited by Peter Jan Margry and Herman Roodenburg [Series: Progress in European Ethnology], 261-271. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2007. "Folk Art and Politics in Inter-War Europe: An Early Debate on Applied Ethnology." Folk Life 45: 7-23.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2008a. From Rivals to Partners on the Inter-War European Scene. Sigurd Erixon, Georges Henri Rivière and the International Debate on European Ethnology in the 1930s. Arv. Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 64: 275-324.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2008b. The Troubled Past of European Ethnology. SIEF and International Cooperation from Prague to Derry. Ethnologia Europaea 38(1), 66-78.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2008c. "From CIAP to SIEF: Visions for a Discipline or Power Struggle?" In Everyday Culture in Europe. Approaches and Methodologies, edited by Máiréad Nic Craith, Ulrich Kockel and Reinhard Johler, 19-63. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2011. "A Remarkable Congress and a Beloved General Secretary. CIAP & SIEF, Arnhem 1955 and Jorge Dias."[Inaugural keynote address at SIEF's 10th congress, Lisbon, April 17th 2011. In press/PDF version at Siefhome.org].
Rogan, Bjarne. 2012a. "An Internationalist among Norwegian Folklorists. A Biographical Sketch of Reidar Th. Christiansen." Arv. Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 68: 91-119.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2012b. "The Institutionalization of Folklore." In A Companion to Folklore, edited by Regina Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem, 598-630. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2013. "Sigurd Erixon on the Post-War International Scene. International Activities, European Ethnology and CIAP from 1945 to the mid 1950s." Arv. Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 69: 89-152.
Rogan, Bjarne. 2014. "Popular Culture and International Cooperation in the 1930s." In Networking the International System. Global Histories of International Oranizations, edited by Madeleine Herren, 175-185. Heidelberg: Springer.
Archives (Abbreviations used in the endnotes)
LISBON: The Jorge Dias collection, Museu Nacional de Etnologia, Lisbon.
MEERTENS: Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam.
MNATP: Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires, Paris.
NB: I use the MNATP references, although the greater part of this collection was transferred to the Meertens Institute, Amsterdam, in May 2012. The rest is now being transferred to MuCEM in Marseille.
NF: Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo.
SE: The Sigurd Erixon collections, Nordiska Museet, Stockholm.
UNESCO: The League of Nations, Paris (UNESCO building).
VIENNA: österreichisches Museum für Volkskunde, Vienna.
All translations to English from Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, French and German by Bjarne Rogan.