The Instrumental Vernacular


  • Ülo Valk University of Tartu


vernacular, folklore , folkloristics of religion, Leonard N. Primiano, history of folkloristics


Written as a response to professor Simon Bronner’s critical analysis of the concept vernacular and its uses, published in the Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics (2022), the article highlights the functionality of the term ‘vernacular’. It has become a folkloristic category, binding conceptual domains such as ‘folk’ and ‘institutional’, ‘folkloric’ and ‘authored’, ‘oral’ and ‘literary’, ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’, which have often been set apart in former scholarship. The main focus of the article is on vernacular religion as a concept and methodology, introduced by Leonard N. Primiano in the 1990s, which opened up a new perspective in the study of religions. The article considers ‘vernacular’ as a flexible concept, instrumental in developing folkloristics in its trans-disciplinary dialogues. Projected on the history of folkloristics as a multilingual field of studies with roots in multiple national, regional and ethnic traditions, vernacular as an outlook enables us to think of folklore as a transcultural concept and disconnect it from colonial legacies.


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