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SIEF2015 12th Congress: Zagreb, Croatia. 21-25 June 2015

Theme: Utopias, Realities, Heritages. Ethnographies for the 21st century

‘A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias’, wrote Oscar Wilde at the beginning of the 20th century. If his time heralded progress as the realization of utopias, the past century has buried many visions of future: big modern projects and the idea of linear progress itself are dead.

The public fascination with heritage in recent years might be understood in the context of this history of temporal imaginations: burying various visions of the future, we excavate multiple visions of the past. Indeed, heritage also presupposes a projected future for which we must safeguard it, populated by future generations who we imagine will care. In between utopia and heritage are day-to-day realities, the ordinary and the routine: the practices and expressions that ethnologists have long taken as their principal objects. It is in this most mundane of realities that people realize their utopian visions and heritage imaginaries, motivating their action and interpreting their existence in the context of imaginary pasts and futures.

The congress theme takes the triad of utopias, realities, and heritages as a challenge and seeks to relate it to the ethnographic study of expressive culture and everyday practices: from religion to politics, from heritage to spatial imagination, from the physical to the virtual, from narrative forms to the food chain, from music to the museum, and from nationalism to tourism.

The theme brings into focus discourses and practices of utopia and heritage, from times past and present, and the congress asks prospective participants: How do utopian visions, realities, and heritages materialize? Where do they circulate? How are they narrated, envisioned and practiced? What are some utopian signifiers and signifieds: human solidarity, national sovereignty, quality of life, preservation of culture and ecosystems, sustainable development, peace, love and understanding? What place do these have in the heritage imagination? And how do heritage and utopia inform our understanding of daily realities here and now?

After the end of progress, various scientific, political, and religious efforts still strive to define a vision of the future and an image of the past with the strength of utopian imagination. In that endeavour, ethnology, cultural anthropology and folklore studies take an active role, while also recording the production of imaginaries, projections, wishes, frustrations and anxieties that people have with regard to the future. In one sense, that has always been their role, since these fields took shape in the 19th century and helped to produce a vision of harmonious rural communities, their tales, customs, and worldviews for an urban, middle-class reading public. The 21st century likewise confronts humanity with a series of challenging questions. Vernacular culture and everyday life are central arenas for confronting these questions and for answering them with reference to social and cultural dynamics and in the context of new economic, political, religious and cultural visions.

The congress offers a critical platform for debating contem‐ porary and historical imaginaries of utopias, realities, and heritages. Participants are encouraged to frame the debate with keywords from ethnological and folkloristic inquiry, such as circulation, performance, community, genre, visual culture, material culture, digital culture, migration, home, memory, morality, gender, religiosity, discipline, hegemony, governmentality, ethnicity, corporeality, and so on and so forth.