Event: Day Conference: Scottish Ecopoetics, Geopoetics and Cosmopoetics.

Venue: Sanctuary, Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL.
Date: Saturday 8 December 2018.
Time: Registration: 9.30am-10am. Event: 10am-5pm.
Event Description: This day conference will explore aspects of Scottish Ecopoetics, Geopoetics and Cosmopoetics.


9.30am-10am: Arrival and Registration.

10am-10.10am: Introduction and Welcome: Dr Ian Wight.

10.10am-10.30am: Plenary address: Dr Ian Wight.

The Poiesis in the Poetics: Presencing Our Inner Poet.

Our conference themes share a focus on poetics, for us to engage individually or collectively. I am interested in the integrative possibilities residing in the underlying poiesis, in the context of the re-framing of poiesis advanced by Kenneth White in his ‘Outline of Geopoetics’:

In its specifically poetic aspect, geopoetics breaks out of the platonist-aristotelian theory of poiesis as mimesis, which still lies at the basis of literary practice in general (reproduction, representation, reflection: mirror-writing) and moves over into presence-in-the-world, experience of field and territory, openness of style, in a relationship of configurational complicity with the cosmological ‘poetics' of the universe (Outline of Geopoetics, Section 6, Paragraph 3).

This distinction (poiesis as presence-in-the-world vis-à-vis poiesis as mimesis) opens us to the possibility in a ‘presencing-in-the world’ perspective, presencing our awareness of the essencing in the prefixing: geo-, eco-, cosmo- in the context of the main qualifier, ‘Scottish’.

What’s in a prefix? A perspective, among other perspectives, to be made and re-made, as a whole, as exquisite whole-making?

What’s in the qualifier – Scottish? Exceptionalism, and/or essencing? Grounding, and/or integrating? The microcosm in the macrocosm?

Are we being called to collectively presence our inner poet, to conduce a poiesis – of exquisite makings by exquisite makers? A poiesis of sophrosynes? - “in a relationship of configurational complicity with the cosmological ‘poetics’ of the universe”.

BIO: Ian Wight PhD FCIP GTB is a retired Canadian city-region planning professor now re-firing in his native land, with a particular interest in the meshing of the personal, the professional and the spiritual in the context of professional-self design. Curious about applications of U Theory, for helping professionals better presence their awareness, by activating an open mind, an open heart and an open will. Currently seeking to ‘tap the spirit’ of folks like John Muir and Patrick Geddes, especially in terms of implications for today’s built environment professionals. 

10.30am-10.40am: Discussion.

10.40am-11am: Plenary address: Dr Ramona Fotiade.

Geopoetics and Nomad Thought: On the Road to the Deep North.

Kenneth White’s trip to the remote region of Hokkaido, in the North of Japan, on Basho’s footsteps, provided the inspiration for The Wild Swans, a book of poems and a spiritual travelogue which complements the earlier published essays on the ‘nomad intellectual’ and on the ‘thought from outside’. The relationship between the geopoetic configuration of the poet’s Scottish homeland and the far away shores of the northernmost Japanese island highlights the meaning of a journey across space and time which deliberately breaks with the Western philosophical tradition in order to allow for a genuine encounter with the other, with the ‘outside’, whether in the form of a natural environment which resists conventional decoding or through a radically different manner of looking at the world. A process of estrangement followed by re-appropriation defines the geopoetic exploration of the Japanese landscape both in Kenneth White’s written record of his journey, and in the documentary film directed by François Reinchenbach,Les Chemins du Nord profond (The Roads to the Deep North), released in 1985.

BIO: Ramona Fotiade is Senior Lecturer in French at the University Of Glasgow, and the PI of the RSE-funded Existential Philosophy and Literature research network. In May 2018 she organised a three-day conference devoted to Kenneth White’s work at the University of Glasgow in partnership with the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, the GalGael Trust, the Hunterian Gallery at the Kelvin Hall, the French Institute in Edinburgh and the Alliance française in Glasgow. As the Director of the Lev Shestov Studies Society she directs the new critical edition of the existential philosopher’s work in both French and English (with Le Bruit du Temps and Ohio University Press). In 2016 she curated the retrospective exhibition, Lev Shestov (1866-1938) The Thought from Outside, at the Mairie du 6e in Paris, and co-scripted and produced a short documentary film on Shestov’s life and work.

11am-11.10am: Discussion.

11.10am-11.30am: Tea/coffee break.

11.30pm-11.50pm: Plenary address: Cara Hagan Gelber.

Creative Social Stewardship.

“Creative Social Stewardship,” is a method of community engagement that invites citizens to tap into their whimsical, radical, colourful selves to create and foster sustainable communities.

BIO: Cara Hagan is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice exists at the intersections of movement, digital space, words, contemplative practice, and community. She currently serves on faculty at Appalachian State University in the Department of Theatre and Dance. Ms. Hagan is also Director and Curator for ADF’s Movies by Movers, an annual, international screen-dance festival under the auspices of the American Dance Festival.

11.50pm-12pm: Discussion.

12pm-12.20pm: Plenary address: Dr Philip Tonner.

Scottish Ecopoetics, Geopoetics and Cosmopoetics:
A pre-requisite to Learning for Sustainability?

Building on a significant history of concern with the long-term future of our planet, a history that can be traced back to important thinkers such as Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) and John Muir (1838-1914), and more recently to figures like Professor John Smyth (1924-2005), aspects of sustainability education have now ‘become accepted as a national ambition’ (Higgins and Christie 2018: 556) in Scotland. The ministerial advisory group – ‘One Planet Schools’ – established by the SNP in 2011 published their report entitled Learning for Sustainability (LfS, integrating Sustainable Development education, Global Citizenship Education and Outdoor Learning) in 2012, the same year as The General Teaching Council for Scotland published its revised ‘professional standards’ for teachers, which embedded LfS within the context of ‘professional values and personal commitments’, to the effect that every teacher and education professional in Scotland is ‘expected to demonstrate LfS in their practice’ (Higgins and Christie 2018: 556). Framed within this educational policy context this paper will explore Scottish Ecopoetics, Geopoetics and Cosmopoetics in terms of Hugh MacDiarmid’s invocation of a radical singular (haecceitas) and in terms of Kenneth White’s invocation of Heidegger’s thought, exposing a link between the two, while also seeking to explore a new kind of anthropological writing rooted in and emerging from poetic dwelling. The paper will close with a meditation on the role of an encounter with Ecopoetics, Geopoetics and Cosmopoetics as pre-requisite to a deep engagement with Learning for Sustainability.

BIO: Dr Philip Tonner is a Lecturer in Education, in the School of Education, at the University of Strathclyde. Before coming to Strathclyde Philip taught in eight secondary schools and three universities and worked for three years in the Research and Major Projects Section of Glasgow Museums, during which time he was seconded to the University of Glasgow as a Lecturer in Museum Studies. Philip studied philosophy at the Universities of Glasgow and Warwick, education at the University of Strathclyde and anthropology/archaeology at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and of the Royal Society of Arts. His research focuses on a collection of issues in philosophy, archaeology and heritage, fairy tales and children’s literature, and teacher research. His general approach could be characterised as a form of philosophical anthropology, in a broad sense. Philip is the author of three books: Heidegger, Metaphysics and the Univocity of Being, (Continuum, 2010), Phenomenology Between Aesthetics and Idealism (Noesis Press, 2015), and, most recently, Dwelling: Heidegger, Archaeology, Mortality, (Routledge, 2018).

12.20pm-12.30pm: Discussion.

12.30pm-12.50pm: Plenary address: Dr Lorn Macintyre.

My commitment as a Scottish Ecopoetics writer.

I will draw on my own life in the Highlands & Islands to illuminate the land, sea and tradition bearers that have inspired me, but which are under threat. What can a writer do to preserve the past, and at the same time make a commitment to the future?

BIO: Dr Lorn Macintyre, poet, novelist, short story writer and former senior researcher and scriptwriter for BBC Scotland Gaelic and English television, hails from Argyll. He grew up at Dunstaffnage House, Connel, and spent formative years in Tobermory on the isle of Mull. He lives in St Andrews with his wife Mary.

12.50pm-1pm: Discussion.

1pm-2.15pm: Lunch.

2.15pm-3.05pm: Keynote address: Professor Ullrich Kockel BA DipBw PhD FAcSS MRIA FRSA,
Professor of Cultural Ecology & Sustainability, Heriot-Watt University.

On Scottish Ground: Creative Ethnology as Radical Hope.

A consideration of place- and world-making, with particular reference to Scotland at the present historical juncture. Proceding from Kenneth White’s essay in his book “On Scottish Ground”, about German artist Joseph Beuys and his concept of “social sculpture”, and drawing on Continental and Scottish poetic imaginers, it follows Mairi McFayden’s 2018 Tony McManus Lecture to explore creative ethnology as a practice of what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope, which “is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” This radical hope requires flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as “imaginative excellence.” In Scotland today, such radical hope is expressed in the emerging practice of a geo-, eco- and cosmo-poetically inspired creative ethnology that connects our past and future ethno-poetically.

BIO: Ullrich Kockel has been described as an “undisciplined academic”, and has held research and teaching posts in Germany, England, and both parts of Ireland before taking up his present chair. A former president (2008-13) of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore, and editor of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures (2007-18), he is Emeritus Professor of Ethnology at Ulster University and a Visiting Professor of Social Anthropology at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas. His wide-ranging research interests show scant regard for disciplinary boundaries, being motivated more by a concern with understanding the lived experience, material and spiritual foundations of human ecology than with canonical purity of approach.

3.05pm-3.15pm: Discussion.

3.15pm-3.35pm: Plenary address: Norman Bissell.

Geopoetics: Its Time Has Come.

Geopoetics is a big idea whose time has come. But it’s more than a big idea. It’s a world outlook, a theory-practice, a way of perceiving and being in the world and a growing international movement for radical cultural renewal of individuals and society. This talk will outline the main elements of geopoetics which include a shared concern for the Earth and its creative expression through arts, sciences, thought and various combinations of them. Kenneth White originated the concept in 1978 and founded the International Institute of Geopoetics in 1989, having rejected the idea of calling it biocosmopoetics. The Scottish Centre for Geopoetics was founded in 1995 by Tony McManus and others and its Assistant Director Mairi McFadyen’s recent lecture has been widely acclaimed: “What is interesting about geopoetics in 2018 is the way it’s being taken up by a group of young scholars, artists & activists in Scotland, who want to use geopoetics (and Kenneth White’s work) as a way to frame and name their agency, facing hyper-capitalism and climate crisis.” The Alternative UK

Cosmopoetics is for the most part an academic concept which has gained little traction in Scotland or elsewhere since the Durham University conference in 2010 where it was explored. Ecopoetics originated with Jonathan Bate’s The Song of the Earth (2000) and, along with ecocriticism and ecopoetry, has been taken up by some poets, writers and academics in Scotland and elsewhere in preference to geopoetics. It is mainly a literary concept and some poets at the University of St Andrews, such as John Burnside, have embraced it without any reference to the work of Kenneth White or geopoetics.

BIO: Norman Bissell is the Director of the trans-disciplinary Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, a writer of poetry, fiction, essays and reviews and an experienced teacher, lecturer and performer. His poetry collection Slate, Sea and Sky, A Journey from Glasgow to the Isle of Luing, with photographs by Oscar Marzaroli, was reprinted in paperback by Luath Press in 2015 and his poems, essays and reviews have been widely published. He was awarded a Creative Scotland artist’s bursary in 2014 to research and write his first novel Barnhill, based on George Orwell’s last years, which will be published by Luath Press in April 2019. He enjoys collaborating with musicians and other artists and lives on the Isle of Luing in Argyll where he was Vice-Chairman of the Isle of Luing Community Trust which built the triple award-winning Atlantic Islands Centre in 2015.

3.35pm-3.45pm: Discussion.

3.45pm-4pm: Tea/coffee break.

4pm-4.20pm: Plenary address: Prof Máiréad Nic Craith.

Life-mapping: An Island perspective.

Our fascination with Islands is timeless and endless. The concept of island-ness features strongly in our ideology of being, from the Western perspective that states “no man is an island” to the Buddhist promotion of development “as being an island to oneself”. This presentation explores the psycho-geography of Island-ness as a resource for life-mapping skills  which may be at odds with an ideology of progress that recognises no limits.

BIO: Mairead Nic Craith is Professor of Cultural Heritage at Heriot-Watt University. Having studied philosophy as an undergraduate  and locating herself in the field of anthropology over two decades, she is deeply interested in spirituality - especially from a Celtic perspective.

4.20pm-4.30pm: Discussion.

4.30pm-5pm: Performance: Cara Hagan Gelber:

LOAM – A Performance Work.

A performance work, “LOAM”. An experience in movement, sound, and words that explores the relationship of the human body and the soil.

BIO: Cara Hagan is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice exists at the intersections of movement, digital space, words, contemplative practice, and community. She currently serves on faculty at Appalachian State University in the Department of Theatre and Dance. Ms. Hagan is also Director and Curator for ADF’s Movies by Movers, an annual, international screen-dance festival under the auspices of the American Dance Festival.

NB: There will be no refund if you cancel your booking.

Scottish Ecopoetics, Geopoetics and Cosmopoetics

Cost: £10/£8 (Concessions)/£3 (Students). For a Registration Form:
Contact: Neill Walker, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 0131 331 4469.

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