The North Sea and North Atlantic have historically provided a natural conduit linking the British Isles with the Nordic countries. Early Norse and Viking colonisations and settlements have made a lasting impression on life both in Scotland and in Britain as a whole, evidence of which can be found in place names, language and other aspects of cultural heritage, and even in genes. Over the centuries, numerous political alliances, intrigues and annexations have been conducted through journeys across the sea between Scotland, Norway and Denmark, as well as further afield. Scottish and Nordic sailors and fishermen have encountered one another – sometimes peacefully but at other times quite violently – in their exploitation of the sea as both a transport route and the provider of marine resources. In more recent times, exploitation has penetrated beneath the seabed, which is now dotted with British, Norwegian and Danish oil platforms, while the cities of Aberdeen, Stavanger, and Esbjerg comprise the North Sea ‘triangle’. It is above all their history of seafaring that Scotland and the Nordic countries have in common.
The sea is thus a most appropriate topic for an anthropological symposium held at St Andrews, where the university, one of the oldest in the world, has been looking over the sea in the direction of the Nordic countries for six centuries. The symposium will focus on the overall topic of the sea and the people surrounding it. Presentations will be oriented around the following sub-themes:
* The wealth of oceans: social and ecological relations of marine resource extraction;
* Lines of seafaring: place, memory and navigation;
* From coast to coast: how the sea joins the land;
* Stories aboard: narrative, song and dance on deck and on land;
* Water crafts: the skills of boat-building, mending and sailing;
* The social life of fluid space.
Although there will be a strong regional emphasis on Scotland and the Nordic countries, this does not exclude anthropological research from other parts of the world, especially when carried out by Scottish and/or Nordic scholars. Since the symposium forms part of the overall NAFA event, including a festival of ethnographic films, presentations dealing with audio-visual or sensuous perceptions and representations are particularly welcome. Submission should be effected online.
It is planned for the results of the symposium and a selection of papers to be published in a peer-reviewed book.
Dr Pedram Khosronejad
Department of Social Anthropology
University of St Andrews
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