SIEF2023 16th Congress

Brno, Czech Republic:
7-10 June 2023


Theme: Living Uncertainty

The goal of SIEF2023 in Brno was to open the debate on uncertainty in Ethnology, Folklore and adjoining fields, both in terms of the uncertainty of everyday life and of epistemological uncertainty. Wherever we look, our world appears to be a place of uncertainty and risk, but the ways we view and interpret these phenomena have always been in flux. Even historical changes in the perception of uncertainty show us that it is not just an obstacle or only a nuisance. Navigating our lives in a sea of uncertainties can also lead to renewed enquiry, to alternative new paths and possibilities. In fact, such social change is an essential part of the everyday life of all communities. Major crises triggered by environmental disasters, climate change, economic upheavals, and devastating wars all hold many lessons and offer tactics for dealing with and coping with suddenly emerging complications. And so, we ask, what are the everyday practices of coping with uncertainty?

Uncertainty is the most fundamental experience for our academic work, too. It can be perceived as an important part in the very process, relativizing the extent and quality of our ethnographic materials and research data and our ability to interpret them, thus contributing to the methodological dynamism of our fields and the relevance of our findings. This can be seen, for example, in the adoption of experimental methods into our work, not to mention the overlaps and cross-disciplinary collaborations with the experimental sciences, or the engaged and applied fields.

We currently face a new level of uncertainty as our “traditional” paradigm of research, teaching, and presentation conducted face-to-face is transformed in favour of online interactions and knowledge sharing. We are discovering new virtual terrains and/or terrains located in the future that force us to rethink our approaches.

We thus invited papers, presentations, discussions, roundtables, and other conference formats that explored research in uncertain fields and situations: global and local conflicts, environmental and social disasters, situations of ontological and cognitive dissonance, and, last but not least, pandemics or war (in any sense of the word). Further questions related to Living Uncertainties included,

  • How do we narrate the uncertain in mundane and/or in exceptional ways?
  • What are the genres of uncertainty?
  • What kinds of care does a world of uncertainty spur? How do we care for bodies, materials, and co-species?
  • How do we inhabit a shifting world and in what ways do we shape the world around us to address the uncertainties that brings?
  • How do we craft and understand sociality and the commons?
  • How do we understand and perform ways of belonging? our identities?
  • What might an ethnography of the future look like?
  • What are the rites des passages of a world with an uncertain future? How do we ritualise to meet new needs and what new habits, customs and traditions emerge?
  • How do we understand borders and boundaries in uncertain times?
  • How do we (re)interpret the past and past cultures and (re)invent the future in light of the uncertainties that face us?
  • How, and why, do we protect tangible and intangible heritage in unstable times?
  • What methods and approaches are best suited to exploring uncertain worlds?

Finally, we encouraged those who were interested to submit experimental contributions, so that together we could explore the nooks and crannies of ethnological, folkloric (and other) knowledge together. Contributions using destabilizing, provocative, and experimental research methods and approaches were welcomed in the congress programme, as were theoretical reflections on uncertainty in the social sciences and humanities more broadly.