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Theme and sub-themes

The ways in which people construct their views, opinions, values and practices are constantly being re-negotiated and re-interpreted in various creative forms. The 10th  SIEF International congress intends to elucidate and develop perspectives on this topic by focusing on the making of places, and invites colleagues and other scholars to present new perspectives on how people's lives, memories, emotions and values interact with places and localities. The conference will be structured around three themes: Shaping Lives; Creativity and Emotions; and Ecology and Ethics. In each of the themes, case studies as well as inquiries into theory are welcome.  The conference aims to encourage in particular boundary-crossing explorations of ontological, epistemological and ethical issues that arise from a greater emphasis on a sensitive and even sensuous approach to knowledge and understanding.

The question of how people make the places they inhabit remains wide open. We invite proposals that deal with the role of cultural practices in the creation of locality: how a space turns into a particular place; how people relate to, construct, and are constructed by, the places they live in; and what the practices are that shape those places. Other questions to be posed include: What new approaches for the study of the emotional links between people and the places they inhabit are being developed? What theoretical tools can be used by ethnologists to understand a sense of belonging? What is the role of expressive culture linked to daily life in the shaping of the places? How do we combine ecological and ethical issues with ethnographic data, especially in cases where there seems to be a clash between what people do with their places and general ecological and ethic concerns?

The variety of places that could be explored in this process include, among many others: work and home places, places for vacation, places for the dead, places to pray, places to create, places to destroy and to be destroyed, places to memorialize, places to arrive and to leave, as well as places that disappear and reappear, inside places, and non-places. Notions of multi-belonging, shared places, and generational differences all show how making places is a process that is not univocal, and people make places as much as places make people. New ways of making places - through the virtual space and internet - should also be taken into consideration.

Each day of the conference, a specific theme will be introduced by two invited keynote speakers, leading international scholars, and discussed further in a series of panel sessions, some of which will run in parallel. Workshops, intended to open to practice-based research, and poster sessions, will also take place. We invite colleagues to participate and propose panels directed at the general theme and the three daily sub themes.

Day 1: Shaping Lives

Our disciplines have from their early beginnings contributed to the understanding of how people are shaping lives. The study of narratives and beliefs, of material culture and practice still belong to the core of our analytical enterprises. However, new perspectives and new analytical horizons suggest new questions to both old and new material. Shaping lives is also about creating and sustaining memory. Memory in its turn makes places predictable and readable to cultural practices, to lived experience. But memory is also changeable and the object of additive interpretation. Both in past and in present people have moved between places, within sets of narratives and practices. Contemporary culture interpreted as global and de-territorialized can be challenged by past experiences and new dimensions of culture of the past can be detected when being confronted by today's practices.

Reflecting on such perspectives several topics and questions can be addressed: By which means and strategies do people shape their lives? The relevance of media and mediation is obvious, as is the relationship between memory and practice. Everyday practices, symbols, rituals and religious values might be taken into consideration. And how are similarities and differences between human beings, nature and 'society' constructed and objectified? How are lives shaped as seen from the individual, from the group or from policy makers? The implications of memory as an important element of shaping lives also include the construction and use of history, without which human conditions can hardly be conceived. Is de-territorialization a way of neutralizing memory and history or is it only a strategy for making memory and history cosmopolitan?

Day 2: Creativity & Emotions

Within our anthropological disciplines the knowledge of the influence of culture on creativity and emotions is still rather limited. This is due more to a lack of ethnography and under-theorizing than to their elusiveness. Emotions and creativity are major factors of change and continuity within all sorts of contexts and places; an ethnological engagement with them is therefore important. The idea of creativity as a basic element for personal existence may accentuate contemporary concerns with issues of agency, but it may also stimulate the refashioning of classical themes of social and cultural identity. To what extent, then, are emotions and creativity idiosyncratic, and to what extent can general cultural principles be detected that affect them? How are emotions and creativity perceived by individuals and groups and in what ways do they influence daily life and the making of places? What is the role of emotions in the construction of a sense of belonging in a globalized world? What is the role of creativity in dealing with increasing contacts of people and cultural forms and ideas under current globalization? Furthermore, how does the organization of the world and the construction of places reflect itself on the ways of feeling the world?

Emotions remain a collective and powerful social engine. Some of today's collective performances (such as theatre, music or art) are related to place belonging and indigenous identity claims. How can emotions help us to question the transmission between the performers and their audience? How do emotions, like nostalgia, suffering or joy, deal with traditional patterns (either inherited or invented) and regenerate or transform feeling about one's place? Those questions should open vast queries, not only about the classical artistic fields of anthropology, but also heritage places, local festivals, web arena, cultural and tourism market, war and nation-building propaganda, diaspora communities, globalized religions, which are all linked with aesthetic values, human capacity of creativity and emotional background of social life. And, as a subsidiary problem, what is the place of the researcher himself in those processes touching or affecting us? How do these circumstances influence our disciplines and their academic output, thinking that scholars, like artists, are supposed to be creative and bring elements of originality and appropriateness to their research?

Day 3: Ecology & Ethics

Culture takes place. We need to reflect on what that simple fact means, in general and for our disciplines in particular. People rarely take a place as they find it, but do they actually make - in the constructivist sense - the places they live in, or are they rather co-creators shaping the places that they are shaped by? On the third day of the conference, we want to put a spotlight on the ecological relationships with both human and non-human makers of places through which culture is lived, and on the responsibilities that we as researchers face when we are dealing with them, both 'in the field' and afterwards, in our ethnography and beyond. Intellectually, most of us are aware that we are part of 'the field' which is also part of us - but are we actually addressing that issue concretely in our work, and if so: how? What are our responsibilities as researchers, and who are we responsible to? What can we learn from neighbouring disciplines, such as cultural geography or human ecology? To what extent does our ecological connectedness with the people we study in their various places provide a justification for engaged ethnology/anthropology, or is it rather the reason why we ought to maintain our objective distance? Whose call is this, in the first instance - that of our institutional ethics review boards or promotions committees; the local ecosphere with the past, present and future generations of its constituents; or a generalised moral conscience? Who are the peers by whose standards our work should be judged, and why they? These and other questions will be addressed on the third day of the conference.