The moral choices of a researcher in the process of creating cultural memory

Keywords: folklore, archives, cultural process, national culture, morality

The article aims to analyse, on the example of folkloristics, a researcher’s choices in studying and documenting culture. The article reveals the contradictions arising from the dual role of a cultural researcher who, on the one hand, should function as an independent observer, but on the other hand their work, activities and knowledge make them a creator, transmitter and developer of culture, as well as a designer of identity-bound social processes.  The modern standards of cultural studies require an awareness of the extrinsic and intrinsic factors affecting the researcher’s perspective and the research outcome, while less attention has been paid to the social impacts expected from the researcher. Should their task consist in neutral documentation and analysis of cultural phenomena and processes or should they describe and mediate first and foremost what they regard as essential and valuable, extraordinary or interesting? Should they ignore the negative aspects of culture, that is, whatever is considered reprehensible or contradictory to their personal sense of morality, in order to avoid promoting and perpetuating such phenomena as part of national culture, or should those, on the contrary, be highlighted as bottlenecks in the community? In the work of a cultural researcher, choices are, of course, inevit­able, but history has shown that in the era of literary and national cultures the role of a researcher as a bearer and mediator of cultural heritage has a profound impact on our self-image as a people, including on what we see as the foundation of our culture and what we do not.

Mari Sarv (b. 1972), PhD, Estonian Literary Museum, Senior Researcher (Vane­muise 42, 51003 Tartu),



EKM ERA – Eesti Kirjandusmuuseumi Eesti Rahvaluule Arhiiv

    EKRK – Tartu Ülikooli eesti kirjanduse ja rahvaluule kateedri kogu


Ehala, Martin 2018. Identiteedimärgid. Ühtekuuluvuse anatoomia. Tallinn: Künnimees.

Hurt, Jakob 1989. Mida rahvamälestustest pidada. Artiklite kogumik. Koost Ülo Tedre. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat.

Kalkun, Andreas, Sarv, Mari 2014. Seks ja poeetika: regilaulu peidus pool. – Vikerkaar, nr 4–5, lk 91–108.

Kulasalu, Kaisa 2013. Ropp ja riigivastane. Rahvaluulekogude tsenseerimisest Eestis hilisstalinismi perioodil. Magistritöö. Tartu: Tartu Ülikool. (29. VIII 2019).

Laugaste, Eduard 1963. Eesti rahvaluuleteaduse ajalugu. Valitud tekste ja pilte. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus.

Sarv, Mari 2008. Värsimõõt ja hõimutunded: kvantiteedireeglid eesti regilaulus. – Keel ja Kirjandus, nr 6, lk 409–420.

Sarv, Mari 2018. Rahvusteadused kui iseenda mõtestamine. – Keel ja Kirjandus, nr 1–2, lk 11–14.

Särg, Taive 2005. Eesti keele prosoodia ning teksti ja viisi seosed regilaulus. (Dissertationes folkloristicae Universitatis Tartuensis 6.) Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Torop, Peeter 2011. Tõlge ja kultuur. Tallinn–Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.