An Introduction to Vernacular Knowledge
Ülo Valk [+]
University of Tartu
The introduction discusses knowledge, belief and authority as entangled concepts, and their relationship to the study of folklore, religion and worldview. Proceeding from Leonard N. Primiano’s ideas about vernacular religion as a contested realm of ambiguity, power and creativity, it addresses vernacular knowledge in comparison to institutionally grounded and organised systems of knowledge, such as science and religion. In contrast to the latter, vernacular knowledge is loose, non-systematic and oriented to the practices of everyday life. Vernacular knowledge can be characterised as an expressive strategy and the product of that strategy, which appears in verbal and non-verbal forms: in oral, written, and printed genres, but also in arts, music, material culture, ritual, and behaviour. It can be imbued with elements from institutionally grounded knowledge but often it challenges, confronts and erodes the officially established authoritarian truths. The article argues that the authorisation of vernacular knowledge relies on tradition, traditionalisation and the evidence of personal experience.