- Barbro Klein (1938–2018)
Professor Barbro Klein of Stockholm, Sweden, passed away in January 2018, at the age of 79. She is survived by her sons Adam, Fredrik, Jakob, and Joel, and their families; her brothers Mats and Ulf; and many colleagues and friends worldwide.
On February 15, 2018, family and many friends and colleagues gathered at Maria Magdalena Church in Stockholm to celebrate the life of Barbro Klein and to say farewell. Following the ceremony, there was a potluck reception at Kulturfyren on Skeppsholmen that was organized by her family and held in the spirit of a Barbro get-together. As we filled three large tables with some of Barbro’s favorites (karlsbaderbröd, kanelbullar, seven varieties of cookies, many varieties of cheese, savory pies, olives, coffee, tea, red and white wine), conversations emerged that recalled workshops, fieldwork sessions, lectures, seminars, conferences, projects, and trips, all of which were events at which Barbro had been the center. As the late afternoon shifted into early evening, people took turns filling the room with musical performances, speeches, and greetings. The recalling of memories most often began with a phrase of connection, such as “when I first came to Stockholm from the US, I was told ‘you must meet Barbro Klein,’” as Karin Becker shared with us. I didn’t give a speech at the reception that evening, but I have in common with Karin and others that particular experience of connectivity.
As a former student at Bennington College in Vermont—from a family that spanned the Atlantic—and with work experience from the American Swedish Institute and other museums, I came to the Department of Ethnology at Stockholm University in 1992 with a desire to study folklore and material culture in the wake of migration. Barbro Blehr, Mats Hellspong, and Åke Daun all told me: “You must meet Barbro Klein.”
Barbro had returned from New York a few years earlier, after nearly 25 years of studying, teaching and raising her family in the United States. She earned a Fulbright Scholarship in 1961 to become a PhD candidate in Anthropology and Archaeology at Indiana University in Bloomington. She received her PhD in Folklore Studies and Anthropology in 1970 and taught at the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; and Upsala College, New Jersey; as well as at other institutions. At the time of her passing, she was Professor Emerita of Ethnology at Stockholm University and Deputy Principal Emerita and Permanent Fellow Emerita, Swedish Collegium of Advanced Study in Uppsala. She kept in close contact with American and international research, and she continued to nurture her transatlantic connections. She served on the board of the American Folklore Society and was a member of the Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy.
Barbro wrote extensively on oral narration, rituals, and other forms of expressive culture in multi-ethnic settings, primarily in the United States and Northern Europe. She also worked on methodological issues and moved across the fields of folkloristics, ethnology, anthropology, and heritage studies. In 2017, she was awarded the King’s Medal for “significant contributions to Swedish and international scholarship and as an ethnologist.” Publications for which she was editor include Swedish Folk Art: All Tradition Is Change (co-edited with Mats Widbom, Abrams, 1994); Gatan är vår! Ritualer på offentliga platser (Carlssons, 1995); and Narrating, Doing, Experiencing: Nordic Folkloristic Perspectives (co-edited with Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj and Ulf Palmenfelt, Studia Fennica, 2006). Among her recent articles are “Women and the Formation of Swedish Folklife Research” (Journal of American Folklore, 2013) and “Cultural Heritage, Human Rights, and Reform Ideologies: The Case of Swedish Folklife Research” (in Cultural Heritage in Transit: Intangible Rights as Human Rights, ed. Deborah Kapchan, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014). At the time of her passing, Barbro had completed her long-term book project on her father as a storyteller.
I had the privilege of knowing and working with Barbro from 1992 and onward: as a student of ethnology; as a research colleague for exhibitions, including Swedish Folk Art: All Tradition Is Change in Santa Fe (1994) and [End Page 77] More Swedish Than Sweden: Folk Art in Swedish America in Leksand (1996...