A1 Journal article (refereed)
Music in Constructing Finnish American Identities in the Immigrant Novel by Martin Koskela (2022)

Kushnir, R. (2022). Music in Constructing Finnish American Identities in the Immigrant Novel by Martin Koskela. Journal of Finnish studies, 25(1), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.5406/28315081.25.1.01

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Kushnir, Roman

Journal or series: Journal of Finnish studies

ISSN: 1206-6516

eISSN: 2831-5081

Publication year: 2022

Publication date: 01/07/2022

Volume: 25

Issue number: 1

Pages range: 1-21

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

Publication country: United States

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5406/28315081.25.1.01

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Open Access channel


In the immigrant novel Welcome to Shadow Lake (1996) by the Finnish American author Martin Koskela, music is portrayed as a notable component of the ethnic heritage of Finnish American immigrants and their descendants in the US in the 1930s. This article analyzes the roles of music in characters’ identity formation with the help of the concept of transculturation, as developed by Mary Louise Pratt, and the theories of music in constructing and negotiating identity developed by Mark Slobin, Martin Stokes, Simon Frith, Georgina Born, and Ulrik Volgsten. Characters use their musical activities to maintain their Finnishness in the new country, but their Old Country music changes by acquiring new meanings and eventually by incorporating new traits of US and Finnish cultures. The discussion focuses on two aspects of music in Koskela's novel. First, live music and related activities such as dances, performed by ethnic Finnish bands as well as visiting musicians, function as shared markers of Finnish American ethnicity. The characters help build and maintain an ethnic community, but at the same time make their “little Finland” an integrated part of the United States. Second, recorded and radio broadcast music provides the characters with both a gateway to America and new symbols of Finnishness, thus enabling different generations of Finnish Americans to negotiate their identities in relation to the past and present, their Old Country heritage, and their sense of American identity. On the whole, the characters’ music reflects identities that are transcultural, both Finnish and American.

Keywords: immigrants; migrants; migration (demography); Finns; Finnish identity; American identity; identity (mental objects); national identity; cultural identity; music; folk music (traditional music); cultural differences; culture; history; literary research

Free keywords: Finnish Americans; Finnish American literature; music; identity construction; transcultural identity

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2022

Preliminary JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2022-19-08 at 20:16