Storytelling, ageing and ethnicity in a rural Tornedalen, North Sweden
Philosophy and Social Scienses University of Jyväskylä Jyväskylä, Finland
In my paper I am going to illustrate the way storytelling is used as a research method in researching ageing and ethnicity based on values and norms adapted significantly in the context of the traditional way of life in Tornedalen. The research took place in a rural village in North Sweden, in which people belong to an ethnic minority called Tornedalers. I have used storytelling as a method for several reasons. Understanding ethnicity is crucial in understanding resources of everyday life of aged, though it is problematic to ask older people about ethnicity since the term ethnicity is not commonly used in the context of the everyday life. Therefore, stories are viewed as knowledge rooted on collective memory of the local generation (Jyrkämä 1995), which participated the research providing information considering elements of which values and norms are consisted.
Secondly, the mother language spoken in the village in which the research took place is an oral language. Therefore even though participants speak meänkieli daily, they can not read or write it fluently or at all. Also they feel that they are unable to express their experiences and knowledge based on Tornedalen way of life appropriately in majority´s terms. Therefore using storytelling in a native mother language includes empowering aims. Thirdly, participation in the process provided an opportunity to enjoy the flow of the traditional storytelling and commemorating together. This was an important point in the structurally aging village in which every third inhabitant is retired and living alone in their own house.
Seven older Tornedalers participated in the research process that follows John Heron´s (1996) co-operative inquiry principles. Thus the contents or the plots of the stories or narrative processes are not directly concerned as data as they would be in the case of qualitative or narrative study. Storytellers have reflected on the main research themes that emerged during storytelling in subsequent group interviews. Several crucial elements for understanding resources for everyday life of aged in Tornedalen emerged on which norm and value based ethnicity is interwoven, for example "connection with nature", which was the key theme of the research.