Sámi dieđalaš áigečála 1-2011 ja 2-2012: Veli-Pekka Lehtola

Johan Turi – sámiid iežaset etnográfa?

Veli-Pekka Lehtola (Oulu universitehta)

Viečča artihkkala dás (pdf).

Johan Turi – an ‘insider’ ethnographer of the Sami?

It has been difficult for the researchers to define the literary production of Johan Turi, most especially Muitalus sámiid birra (An Account of the Sami), according to «Western» concepts of literature. It cannot be seen as fiction, because he tells stories about «real life». Turi’s main work is not purely autobiographical, because he describes a whole life style and way of thinking through detailed observations. There has been a convention to classify him as a folk artist or a folk writer.

My paper tries – even in a playful manner – to apply the concept of ethnographer to describe Turi’s way of representing his own people. Following a common definition, ethnography is a qualitative method examining the cultural systems of different communities. Through field work, the ethnographer acts as a certain kind of translator, interpretator or intermediator between the object and the research results. In my article, I present some research fields of Turi concerning historical and archeological studies, social sciences and folklore. The most basic information in Turi’s book is the close connection between man and nature, especially the animals.

Contrary to the lappologist scientists of his time, Turi tried to describe the culture through the experiences and stories of an indigenous people. Using humour and irony as an objectifying method which is well reflected in his multivoiced way of writing, Turi takes flexible perspectives on his research objects. The character of Turi resembles another non-academic writer and researcher, a Finnish contemporary Samuli Paulaharju.