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Place Wisdom

Following the workshop on ‘Between Habitus and Habitat: Steps towards EcoEthnology’ at the 9th SIEF Congress, researchers from several universities with successful research programmes in this field have rallied to form a new SIEF Working Group. The SIEF Working Group on Place Wisdom aims to establish a repository of multi-media, ethnographically-inflected records relating to understandings of place that contest conventional divisions between culture and nature – in particular understandings based on ecological beliefs and practices, and the traditions from which these draw inspiration. Building on research at the interface of human ecology, geography, anthropology, art, archaeology, performance studies, literature and philosophy, the Working Group will be concerned with issues such as the spiritual foundations of local community development, or the meaning of indigeneity in the post-industrial world.

We are very keen for this Working Group to develop an active research programme, and to engage with research users outside academia. To this end we encourage collaborative international research projects with the potential to attract significant financial support, and have already initiated a number of bids to different research funding bodies. Using ethnographic and closely related case studies to challenge received notions of ‘tradition’, projects examining ‘tradition’ as a process of intergenerational, interregional, and intercultural transfer of knowledge, skills and values will look at the creative potential of living traditions in their socio-ecological contexts, and at the role of the ethnologist in the tradition process. Located at the interface of ethnology and other arts and humanities fields, the research envisaged is likely to involve a significant element of practice, which may take a variety of forms including audio-visual, fine art, or performance.

The Working Group has been initiated by colleagues associated with the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages (University of Ulster), the Ethnological Research Unit (UWE Bristol), and the Centre for Human Ecology (University of Strathclyde).

Colleagues who have expressed an interest in becoming involved in this Working Group to-date include:
Gulnara Aitpaeva (Aigine Centre);
Joan Beal (Sheffield);
Iain Biggs (UWE);
Marion Bowman (Open);
Liam Campbell (Ulster);
Vytis Ciubrinskas (Kaunas);
Terry Gunnell (Iceland);
Graham Harvey (Open);
Ullrich Kockel (Ulster);
Alastair McIntosh (Strathclyde);
Iain MacKinnon (Ulster);
Patricia Monaghan (De Paul);
Máiréad Nic Craith (Ulster);
Torunn Selberg (Bergen);
Helena Ruotsala (Turku);
Arūnas Vaicekauskas (Kaunas);
Victoria Walters (Ulster).

We would very much welcome anyone who shares our research interests and would like to join the Working Group to develop collaborative research projects, which may include graduate training and summer schools alongside the research itself.

Please send expressions of interest to its chair, Ullrich Kockel, email:

After approval by SIEF’s Executive Board in March 2009, according to art. 12 of SIEF’s bylaws, and endorsed by more then five SIEF members, the Working Group wasofficially launched on 1 May 2009 at a symposium on “community, ecology and the human spirit”, organised by some of its members at the University of Ulster.