Book: The Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization
Chapter: 12. Co-composing a Village History in the Archipelago of Southwestern Finland
Nostalgic narration as such is not religious, but it can be recognized as having an ontological function. I have conducted an oral history project in Lypyrtti, an old pilot’s village on the southwestern coast of Finland, where the inhabitants’ fear of losing knowledge of their local history arises simultaneously with the fear of losing access to clean water. Time has passed and the future seems to promise the rather unwelcome change of eutrophication. Most likely due to this sense of impermanence, the past spatial practices or old ways of living in the reminisced village are almost sacrosanct. The nostalgic, enchanted village lives in the memories of the present inhabitants, and the present, ominously changing environment reminds them of it, prompting them to remember.
This oral history project had two literal results: a history book on the village and my ongoing research project in comparative religion. It was a reciprocal signification process in many ways. The production of narrated data was an act of interaction and dialogue between the locals, the environment and myself. As I understand it, cultural knowledge, rather than being imported into the settings of practical activity, is constituted within these settings. Every step of the conceptualization – from the observation to the verbalization – is social. I combine the ideas, concepts and methodology of oral history and place research. I bring into the discussion the double agency of researcher as experiencer (in the field) and as conceptualizer (in the textualization process). I draw inspiration mainly from the thoughts of the anthropologist Tim Ingold and sociologist Bruno Latour, in order to elaborate how various kinds of actants and actors mediated information in the process and influenced each other, thereby extending conceptualizations of agency from human to non-human actors.