‘People, Landscape and a Sense of Place’
This year, our IRC Symposium and Ceilidh was a virtual event and hugely successful. We were delighted to welcome guest speakers, vocalists, poets and a wide range of attendees all in keeping with our overarching themes of ‘People, Landscape and a Sense of Place’.
A welcome was extended by both Dr Katerina Strani, the Acting Director of the IRC, and Prof Mairéad Nic Craith, the former Director, who introduced the event. Dr Strani reminded us that the IRC’s research seeks to build understanding and develop appreciation of the experiences and representations of living with, or between, different cultures, identities, communities or languages. To this end, our research is built around three key themes:
- Heritage and Sustainability, led by Prof Ullrich Kockel.
- Popular culture and inclusion, led by Prof Chris Tinker.
- Migration, led by Dr Katerina Strani
The Symposium was organised around these three research themes and we were delighted to welcome three guest speakers on each of these themes, as we kept in mind our focus on the Symposium’s overarching theme of ‘People, Landscape and a Sense of Place’
An introduction to our first guest speaker was made by Professor Ullrich Kockel, who outlined our ‘Heritage and Sustainability’ theme at the IRC. Dr Nessa Cronin, Lecturer in Irish Studies and Associate Director of the Moore Institute at NUI Galway, Ireland, was then invited to begin her talk entitled ‘Shared Inheritances, Environmental Futures and our Planetary Home’. Dr Cronin brought out some fascinating themes such as placemaking and disruption, prompting some of our attendees to reflect on their own experiences within these fields. Other highlights of her talk included the importance of cultural heritage to promote social cohesion, as she noted the detrimental impact that climate change has had on both tangible and intangible cultural heritage practices, as well as socio-ecological and economic systems.
Secondly, Professor Chris Tinker introduced our ‘Popular Culture and Inclusion’ theme and we enjoyed listening to the thoughts of Professor Heiko Motschenbacher, Professor of English as a Second/Foreign Language at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and General Editor of the Journal of Language and Sexuality (JLS). Prof Motschenbacher’s talk was entitled ‘Walking on Wilton Drive: A linguistic landscape analysis of a homonormative space’. There were several interesting and enlightening points made, highlighting the negotiation of normativity and the allegory of symbols in relation to gender norms. These thoughts prompted some attendees to consider the power of language and how linguistic landscapes can shape norms. One of our attendees also reflected on the popular and well-recognised symbol of a rainbow and how this has come to be known as an emblem of hope through the difficult period of Covid-19, challenging a previous association with the symbol.
Our final lead theme for the day was ‘Migration’ and this was introduced by Dr Katerina Strani. The IRC Migration theme looks at how cultures, communities and societies in the broad sense are shaped by migration. Some of the key research interests under this theme are identities, including linguistic identities, belonging, intercultural dialogue, as well as racism and othering (in multicultural societies). Our guest speaker for this theme was Dr Emma Hill, Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. Emma’s research on Somali populations in Glasgow has informed her more recent work on the governance of integration for asylum seekers and refugees across the UK and Europe. Emma’s talk was focused on ‘Colonial genealogies and the Glasgow Bajuni Campaign’. This is a lesser known and challenging topic, based on Dr Hill’s ethnographic work in Glasgow over 2 years. The talk touched on the self-representation of asylum seekers, noting the construction of a sense of place as well as highlighting identity and language in asylum-seeking procedures.
Our three guest speakers were then invited to participate in a Q&A session with our attendees. The interdisciplinary aspect of the day was extremely evident and participants discussed overlapping interests, themes and key questions. We were delighted to receive positive feedback from those who attended and challenged our guests to continue the conversation offline.
We were tweeting throughout the symposium, using the hashtag #HWIRC2021. This time, we were careful not to use any hashtags that were taken by other conferences. Those of you who were at our previous IRC Symposium in 2019 may remember that #IRC2019 was also used by the International Rubber Conference and the International Rapeseed Congress 2019, which led to some funny interactions on Twitter!
The symposium was interpreted into British Sign Language by our BSL Interpreters.
CEILIDH – MUSIC AND POETRY
7:00pm brought around our IRC Online Ceilidh, where we welcomed talented performers to share vocals, poems and discussions around the focus of our day, ‘People, Landscape and a Sense of Place’.
Our first performer was Steve Byrne, a Scots singer and researcher who was awarded the title of Scots Singer of the Year in 2019. He shared a few songs with us which we all enjoyed, as he recounted his authentic experiences with ‘People, Landscape and a Sense of Place’.
For more information about Steve, you can click this link: Steve Byrne – folksinger and musician
We then welcomed Meg Bateman to share some of her poetry with us. Meg is a Scottish academic, a poet and a short story writer and we were delighted to listen to her recite some of her work exploring Gaelic culture.
One of her books can be found using this link: Window-to-the-West.pdf (uhi.ac.uk)
Our penultimate performance of the night was by impressive Niillas Holmberg – Sami poet, novelist, scriptwriter and musician. Niillas performed one of his poems and two traditional Sámi yoiks. You can learn more about his work by clicking here: Niillas Holmberg
Finally, we enjoyed listening to Brian Ó hEadhra and Fionnaig Nic Choinnich who are singers and songwriters. They performed songs from the Gaelic traditions, which we were encouraged to singalong to. A link to their latest CD can be found here: Home (brian-fionnag.com)
Our Symposium and Ceilidh were huge successes, and we were delighted to welcome guest speakers and performers to share their knowledge and join the conversation as we focused on key IRC themes, under the main focus of ‘People, Landscape and a Sense of Place’.
For more details about the Heritage and Sustainability theme, contact U.Kockel@hw.ac.uk
For the Popular Culture and Inclusion theme, contact C.G.Tinker@hw.ac.uk
For the Migration theme, contact A.Strani@hw.ac.uk
Lucy Lannigan, PhD Candidate in Heritage and Sustainability, Intercultural Research Centre