Event: Online Zoom Conference: Landscapes of the Imagination, Mindscapes of the Imagined Nation:

The theme is illustrated by reference to a range of writers, poet-philosophers, and inter-spiritual artists and creatives, such as Johannes Bobrowski, Mandy Haggith, Kathleen Jamie, John Moriarty, Robin Robertson, and Maria Simmons-Gooding.

Jointly organised by the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace, EICSP, Scottish Charity, SC038996, and the Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University.

Date: Saturday 20 November 2021.
Time: Conference: 10am-4pm (UK time).

Event Description: This day conference explores imaginative and imaginary landscapes connecting folk and place in the creation of nations and their heritages. Land and Sea have played a significant role in imaginaries conjuring the place of cultural collectives. Therefore, a particular focus of the day is on landscapes on the edge of water – the waterscapes of rivers and their catchments, from source to sea; inland seas; and, archipelagic revisionings of peripheries and centres. The theme is illustrated by reference to a range of writers, poet-philosophers, inter-spiritual artists and creatives, such as Johannes Bobrowski, Mandy Haggith, Kathleen Jamie, John Moriarty, Robin Robertson, and Maria Simmons-Gooding.



10am-10.10am: Welcome and Introduction: Prof Ullrich Kockel.

10.10am-10.30am: Dr Samantha Walton.

Title: 'You are touching life': Ecology, Self, and World in Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain.

Description: When Nan Shepherd walked out of her body and into the life of the mountain, she was exploring a premise both philosophical and material. To what extent is the human really a part of nature, and how could somatic practices, like turning the head upside down, or sensory encounters of touch, taste and smell, blur the boundaries of the human and living world? In this talk, I explore Nan Shepherd's fascination with the living world and her understanding of 'Life' as a vital agency enervating matter, in order to consider why her ecological vision is still so captivating now.

Bio: Dr Samantha Walton is a Reader in Modern Literature at Bath Spa University. Her book, The Living World: Nan Shepherd and Environmental Thought (Bloomsbury, 2020), explores how Shepherd wrote about the ecology of the Cairngorms, and asks how her work might speak to our current environmental crisis. She has been invited to talk about her research on Shepherd at mountain festivals and on BBC Winterwatch. Other books include Everybody Needs Beauty: In Search of the Nature Cure (Bloomsbury 2021) and a poetry collection, Self Heal (Boiler House Press, 2018).

10.30am-10.40am: Discussion.

10.40am-11am: Prof Richard H. Roberts.

Title: How could we read our souls and learn to be?: Landscapes of trauma, the limen and healing in Scotland.

Description: In my 2020 Tony McManus Geopoetics Memorial Lecture, Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘On Raised Beach’: ‘Geopoetics’ in a time of catastrophic crisis, I placed MacDiarmid’s epic poem in a distinctly Scottish tradition of shamanistic literary expression, which is now active and well embedded in ‘Geopoetics’. Whilst I endorse the shamanic journey and the exploration of its contested epistemologies, I will suggest that whilst deep encounters with the many landscapes of trauma in Scotland may well promote the formation of identity, such regression does not in and of itself promote the healing of a nation with (for example) the highest rates of death through alcohol and drug addiction in Europe. MacDiarmid’s pebble, held between fingers and thumb, does not merely open access to the limen, and thus to infinitude. I shall argue that this moment of transformation also implies the possibility of the expansion and healing of the reduced Scottish sensorium, the full manifold of the senses, which as Edwin Muir proposes in his still resonant poem Scotland 1941, has been blighted by both trauma and tradition.       

Bio: Richard H. Roberts (né Vodvarka) is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies (Lancaster University), and held the Chair of Divinity at the University of St Andrews during a time of dramatic change in university governance. Currently, Roberts is Honorary Fellow at New College, University of Edinburgh. His research interests include ‘managerial modernity’; the interface between music, performance and ritual; shamanism and altered states of consciousness; interrogation of the current polarisation between theology and religious studies.

11am-11.10am: Discussion.

11.10am-11.30am: Break.

11.30am-11.50am: Prof Ullrich Kockel.

Title: Sarmatian Waterscapes as National Imaginaries.

Description: The presentation looks at two distinct yet connected waterscapes in the Sarmatian frontier – the river called Memel in German, and the Curonian Lagoon through which it flows into the Baltic Sea. Five nations have drawn on the river as part of their national imaginary: Belarus, where it rises; Poland, through which it used to flow and whose borders in the east and north it now defines; Lithuania, whose aquatic central axis it forms; Prussia-Germany, for which it holds multiple national connotations; and Russia, seeking to capture it in vain. The lagoon is the historical frontier between Germany and Lithuania, and is now at the centre of a Euroregion. These waterscapes in their political context are examined through the lens of writers who have creatively engaged with them.

Bio: Ullrich Kockel is Professor of Creative Ethnology at the University of the Highlands and Islands and a Visiting Professor at the Latvian Academy of Culture, Riga, and Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas, Lithuania. He previously held chairs in Cultural Ecology at Heriot-Watt University, Ethnology at the University of Ulster, and European Cultures at the University of the West of England, and is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

11.50am-12: Discussion.

12-12.20pm: Prof Mairéad Nic Craith.

Title: Invocations of Ireland: Perspectives from the Edge.

Description: In Celtic Mythology, the Song of Amhergin is ascribed to one of the sons of the Míl, a people from Iberia (Spain) who raided Ireland and battled with the Tuatha de Dannan. At the water’s edge, Amhergin invokes an image of Ireland that draws on its landscape, rivers and the creatures that inhabit them. Exploring the works of Tomás O’Criomhthain, John Moriarty, Maria Simonds-Gooding and others, this presentation investigates how creatives on the periphery (geographically and/or philosophically) have re-imagined the island of Ireland, connecting people and place in the context of our ancient stories.   

Bio: Mairéad Nic Craith is Professor of Public Folklore at the University of the Highlands and Islands, having previously held chairs in Anthropological Studies at Heriot-Watt University and in Sociology at the University of Ulster. She is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

12.20pm-12.30pm: Discussion.

12.30pm-2pm: Lunch Break.

2pm-2.20pm: Dr Donald Smith.

Title: Greening a City - Reversing the Narrative.

Description: A reflection on sustainable, creative resources for the re-imagining of Edinburgh drawn from the recent Global Storytelling Lab hosted by the Scottish International Festival in the run-up to COP 26.  

Bio: Donald Smith is a founding member of the Scottish Storytelling Forum, Edinburgh’s Guid Crack Club and is currently Chief Executive of TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) which brings together Scotland’s traditional arts, as well Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in the Autumn.

2.20pm-2.30pm: Discussion.

2.30pm-2.50pm: Dr Liam Campbell.

Title: A river runs through it: catchment, imagination, and identity.

Description: Exploring the notion of a river catchment as metaphor and imagination and a ‘profoundly suggestive way of looking at the world and caring for it' (see below from Tim Robinson).
A catchment area is a naturally defined and functionally integral facet of the world’s surface, unlike a parish or electoral division or county whose boundaries may or may not be given by landscape features; as such, a catchment can be taken as a microcosm of the whole. It is an open, self-renewing, dynamic system supporting and supported by a vast number of life forms and all their interrelations. Even in its most basic topography, the most skeletal and reductive representation of its geometry, is profoundly suggestive of a way of looking at the world and caring for it…A river’s ills may be discharged into the sea, but the way things are, we keepers of the world catchment cannot be exonerated of our responsibility (Robinson, 2006: 273).

Bio: Dr Liam Campbell lives outside Plumbridge in the Sperrin Mountains in Co. Tyrone and was born in Inishowen in Co. Donegal. He has recently been appointed as Director of the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park. Previously, he worked as the Built and Cultural Heritage Officer at Lough Neagh Partnership and as a television producer on programmes such as Lesser Spotted Ulster for some twenty years before returning to academia. He has published widely on heritage and environmental issues, especially about the northwest of Ireland. His recent book Room for the River has just been published by Merdog Books.  Holding undergraduate degrees from NUI Maynooth and masters degrees from both Queens University Belfast and Ulster University, Liam completed his PhD at Ulster University on the cultural heritage of rivers. He is a visiting lecturer at East Tennessee State University where he previously held the Basler Chair for Integration of the Arts and Sciences.

2.50pm-3pm: Discussion.

3pm-3.20pm: Valdis Muktupavels.

3.20pm-3.30pm: Discussion.

3.30pm-4pm: Closing Plenary Discussion.


Landscapes of the Imagination


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

Cost: By Donation. 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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