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Place Wisdom

The SIEF Working Group on Place Wisdom aims to develop understanding of places that contest conventional divisions between culture and nature – in particular, understandings based on ecological beliefs and practices, and the traditions that these draw inspiration from. The group promotes and supports ways of working that explore, examine, and analyse the relationships of human and non-human constituents of place, and seek out possibilities for sustainable, future-oriented human agency.

We are interested in supporting and developing projects examining ‘tradition’ as a process of intergenerational, interregional, and intercultural transfer of knowledge, skills and values; that look at the creative potential of living traditions in their socio-ecological contexts, and at the role of the ethnologist in the tradition process.

Building on research at the interface of human ecology, geography, anthropology, art, archaeology, performance studies, literature, linguistics, heritage studies, futures research, and philosophy, the working group is concerned with issues such as the spiritual foundations of local community development, or the meaning of indigeneity in the post-industrial world. In addition, the working group is interested in approaches that both explore the cultural meanings – past, present, and future – of places in various forms, and the constant change that occurs in places. We share such questions as: What is it that people in these transitions experience, and how are concepts of ‘local’ and ‘cultural knowledge’ experienced and used by different actors?

We are keen that the working group continues to develop an active research programme, which includes engaging with researchers and users of research beyond academia. To this end we encourage collaborative international research projects with the potential to attract significant financial support. We are continuing to initiate bids to diverse research funding bodies, and are interested to hear from potential collaborators across disciplines, institutions, and practices. Located at the interface of ethnology and other arts and humanities fields, we continue to envisage research that is likely to involve a significant element of practice, and which may take a variety of forms including audio-visual, fine art, and/or performance.

The working group will continue to propose panels for SIEF’s congresses. Participation in these is open to SIEF members only. In addition, we plan to hold online events wherever possible, at which all current members, and others who have expressed an interest in Place Wisdom (including those considering becoming members of the group), are warmly welcomed to share about their research, and to get to know the working group and each other.

All images are copyrighted to C. McCullagh and P. Latvala-Harvilahti Image copyrighted to C. McCullagh and P. Latvala-Harvilahti

The foundation and development of the Place Wisdom Working Group

The SIEF Place Wisdom Working Group was initiated in 2009 by colleagues associated with the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages (University of Ulster), the Ethnological Research Unit (UWE Bristol), and the Centre for Human Ecology (University of Strathclyde). Following the workshop ‘Between Habitus and Habitat: Steps towards EcoEthnology’ at the 9th SIEF Congress, researchers from these and other universities with successful research programmes in this field formed this SIEF Working Group.

Historically, the working group had aimed to establish a repository of multimedia, ethnographically-inflected records relating to the multiple disciplines, epistemologies, and research/practice outcomes that reflected its interests in the interactions and interfaces of people and places across Indigenous and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Systems –wisdoms of place. While no such repository has been assembled, we continue to explore new ways to share from our members’ experiences and expertise, including through in-person and virtual workshops and gatherings. To find out more about what is being planned for the future, please get in touch with the working group’s co-chairs.


Dr Kirsty Kay, University of Sheffield, kirstyannkay(at)gmail.com

Adjunct Prof. Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti, University of Turku, pauliina.latvala-harvilahti(at)utu.fi

To apply for membership of this working group please contact Kirsty Kay (kirstykay(at)gmail.com) and Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti (pauliina.latvala-harvilahti(at)utu.fi).

If you are already a member, and find that your name is not listed here, please do contact the co-chairs to request that your name be included.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Badura, Jens
Bertran, Aleida
Bula, Dace
Bułat-Silva, Zuzanna
Dippel, Anne
Farkas, Judit
Fitzgerald, Kelly
Gearey, Mary
Gonzales, Laya
Haanpää, Riina
Klekot, Ewa
Kockel, Ullrich
Koskinen-Koivisto, Eerika
Kay, Kirsty
Kõiva, Mare
Kouri, Jaana
Latvala-Harvilahti, Pauliina
Laurén, Kirsi
Melcer-Padon, Nourit
Muktupāvela, Rūta
McCullagh, Cáit
Nic Craith, Máiréad
Siivonen, Katriina
Walters, Victoria
Österlund-Pötzsch, Susanne