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SIEF International Summer School “Giving Voice? Facilitating Social and Community Resilience”

Convener Dr Thomas A. McKean, Director, Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, 22–29 June 2018

Part-funded by the Elphinstone Institute and the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF)

The second SIEF International Summer School will address community social resilience from two perspectives. First, we will explore how communities reinvent themselves and repurpose the past during and after radical socio-economic change, repairing old connections while creating and maintaining new ones. In this process, grass roots activists draw on tradition, history, and new and old ideas, to reconnect the threads that create cohesive subgroups and feed into an area’s cultural self-esteem, an essential element in building resilience and the social structures required to make a community work. Second, we will address how the folklorist/ethnologist can play a role in this project through sensitive, ethical partnership working, taking as given our reflexive impact on the transaction. Inevitably, there will be both tensions and opportunities, but through slow ethnography, we can hope to achieve a balance that works for both parties.

We will explore these ideas in seminars and discussions, some with our community partners, looking at what works and what doesn’t, while also co-designing and doing realtime, partnership ethnographic work with our host community, enacting a collaboration that draws from these experiences. Our focus will be on how communities and individuals negotiate past and present cultural needs through their evolving relationship with tradition and sometimes with ethnographers, too.

The School is run by the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, and held in the old fishing village of Portsoy on the Moray Coast, a community which has, over the last twenty years or so, virtually reinvented itself with a combination of social enterprise, community activism, collaborative work, widespread community buy-in, and academic involvement. We will therefore take part in work with academic experts and community members, people who have driven the agenda, the activities, and the remarkable social and economic results achieved in the village. Field trips within the Summer School will allow us to explore a diversity of approaches to community and heritage found in the region.

Guest leaders include Robert Baron (New York State Council on the Arts), Elaine Lawless (University of Missouri), Donald Smith (Scottish Storytelling Centre), Chris Wright, Steve Byrne, and Mairi McFadyen (Local Voices), Roger Goodyear and Lorna Summers (Portsoy Community Enterprise), along with Frances Wilkins and Tom McKean from the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen.