Research at the Institute of Cultural Research and Arts concentrates on contextualising culture in many closely linked, yet multilateral aspects.
Department of Ethnology carries out research in Estonian, Finno-Ugric and Arctic cultures. Estonian ethnology is explored through the everyday culture diachronically and synchronically including ethnic identity and experiences through life stories. Research in Finno-Ugric and Arctic cultures focuses on changes in the everyday life of the peoples of the North, their world view and rituals, economic systems and ways of life.
Research projects of the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore analyse and discuss folklore as a traditional creative process that gets its meanings and functions in social context. Research is focused on biographical narratives, narrated memories, folk songs, laments, legends, myths and folktales, their performance and social functions. In addition to Estonian folklore South Asian and Finnic traditions are being studied; publications are to a great extent addressed to international readership.
The Department of Literature and Theatre Research investigates Estonian works of word art in a wide range of national and international literary contexts, applying theoretical and comparative approaches to the poetics and reception of poetry, fiction and theatre. Questions focusing on the history of Estonian literature and theatre are considered and literary theories are examined. Research outcomes are disseminated in Estonia and abroad.
Research outcomes are made public via conferences and publications. Institute staff participates in the work of the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies. In 2008–2015 institute's research groups took part in the activities of the Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory.