Conference 2023

Laments lost or alive and well

International Conference of the Lament Tradition
May 15–17, 2023 in Helsinki, Finland at the Finnish Literature Society (Hallituskatu 1, Helsinki)

Photo collage of lament tradition

Lamenting – ritual wailing – is a practice that is known worldwide. The ways of lamenting and the meanings of laments vary from culture to culture and from context to context.

In this conference, we explore the variety of laments, their meanings, and their practices in relation to the world changing all around. The conference aims to reflect on questions and topics inherent to the contemporary field of lament research and to search for some common ground. We invite scholars to discuss the lament, its various representations and interpretations, and related metacultural discourses: the lament saved, kept, revived, revised, appropriated, experienced, sensed, in history, recorded, dug up from archives, reinterpreted, transmitted, and twisted into something new – but not lost.

The conference discussions find their home in the shared ground between folklore, cultural and religious studies, ethnomusicology, ethnology, and anthropology.

The conference will be held in Helsinki at the Finnish Literature Society as an in-person event.

Confirmed keynote speakers

Professor Charles L. Briggs (Anthropology, Berkeley University of California)
Charles L. Briggs is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and the Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor of Folklore at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Learning How to Ask, Competence in Performance, Voices of Modernity (with Richard Bauman), Making Health Public (with Daniel Hallin), Stories in the Time of Cholera and Tell Me Why My Children Died (both with Clara Mantini-Briggs), and, in 2021, Unlearning: Rethinking Poetics, Pandemics, and the Politics of Knowledge. He has received many awards and honors, including being elected in 2023 as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

PhD Eila Stepanova (Folklorist, Executive Director of Karelian Cultural Society)
Eila Stepanova is a Finnish folklorist specializing in Karelian and more broadly in North Finnic lament poetry. She received her doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki in 2014. She is recognized as the foremost active expert on Karelian laments and as an expert in Karelian culture more generally, with a wide range of fieldwork experience. Stepanova is currently an executive director of the Karelian Cultural Society (Karjalan Sivistysseura).


Principles for a safer space

Registration & practical information

Call for Papers (DL November 17, 2022).


Kyynelkanavat – Laments in the contemporary Finland – project at the University of Eastern Finland founded by Kone Foundation
Karelian Cultural Society
Finnish Literature Society

In collaboration with the Academy of Finland project Regional cultures of Finnic oral poetry (project number 346342)

Kone Foundation
The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies

Coverphoto: Photo collage of lament in Karelia and in contemporary Finland. Credits: I.K. Inha 1894 / Finnish Heritage Agency; Screenshot from YouTube-video 2020; P. Virtaranta 1968 / Ahavatuulien armoilla (1999); R. Patrikainen 2021; A.O. Väisänen 1915 / Finnish Heritage Agency; R. Patrikainen 2021; Screenshot from YouTube-video 2020.