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Space-lore and Place-lore

This Working group was instituted at SIEF’s General Assembly, 2 July 2013.

Karolína Pauknerová PhD, Co-Chair, Centre for Theorethical Study, Charles University Prague,
László Mód, Co-Chair, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Szeged,

Secretary: Alice Bower, University of Iceland,

Mission statement

Ever since ethnography emerged as a discipline it has devoted great attention to the spatial manifestation, spread, similarities and differences of cultural phenomena. It strove to trace the history of their origin and how they spread. Theories were born on the basis of this approach: e.g. the theory of Kulturkreis, the Finnish geographical-historical school. Ethnography turned its attention principally to the spatial manifestation of rural, village, peasant culture interpreted as traditional. Cultural areas, zones and cultural trends were described. From the first third of the 20th century work began in many countries on ethnographical atlases and was concluded largely by the end of the 20th century. A common feature they all share is a reference to geographical determinism.

Space is one of the basic determinants of human life. People and their communities are separated from each other by strict or virtual boundaries. We use many different kinds of maps. The individual experiences space as place. This space is locality about which the individual and the community have special awareness, and to which people can be attached in special ways. We can have different experiences and perceptions of space, which is why our mental spatial maps may differ and may have different biographical context. These recognitions appeared in anthropology, radically modifying the earlier approach of the discipline to space and place.

From the mid-20th century attention turned, besides the village, also to cities and the complex, modern and postmodern society. Industrialisation that had reshaped the world also transformed the earlier structure of space and society through strong internal and international migration. All this is the influence of the growing globalisation. Borders really became virtual as a consequence. It brought the appearance of very similar, uniform non-places (airports, shopping centres, etc.). People and their communities shape these spaces, that in turn influence them and their culture. The concepts of space, place, locality, landscape have become diverse. Political and natural, social, symbolical, religious, ethnic, linguistic and other borders criss-cross our lives, continuously shaping the space and place of our lives, contact-zones, the landscape and in cases producing a distinctive regionalism and regional consciousness.

Our working group wishes to examine these themes, mainly in ethnographical and anthropological case studies, with a global and local outlook or comparative approach. We also wish to draw on the experiences of the International Ethnocartography Working Group regarded as our forerunner. We welcome all those researchers who wish to deal with maps and spatial experience from a historical, ethnographical and anthropological or other disciplinary angle, or from the viewpoint of different disciplines (European ethnology, geography, sociology, cultural studies, urban studies, anthropology, anthropology of religion, heritage studies, etc.).