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PANELS

The organising committee of the conference invites proposals for presentations at the CECT Sixth Autumn Conference. Interested participants are encouraged to think about how their work addresses any of the following themes listed below.


Panel I: Revisiting key issues in the methodology of studying culture: reflexivity, representation and experience

This panel invites scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to revisit and reflect upon recurring methodological issues in the study of culture, many of which are furthermore tied up with epistemological questions and ethical concerns. In the face of the recent interest of the humanities in questions of embodiment, personhood and experience, we ask how these concepts pertain to researchers’ own subjectivity as well as their scholarly interests and choice of research methods.

The topic of reflexivity was brought to the foreground in the social sciences of the 1960s and 1970s, mainly as a counter-reaction to the so far dominant positivist programmes. However, the characteristics that one can reflect upon by one’s (scholarly) self appear to be unevenly accessible or highlighted. Reflections on one’s disciplinary, methodological or theoretical identity are supported by a set of texts and approaches that one can rely on while delineating such identities. At the same time, it tends to be much harder to reflect upon values and experiences one has acquired through being brought up and living in a particular socio-cultural setting. Yet, it is often those very characteristics of the researcher’s personality that are exposed to other subjects in the field and that therefore determine whether and how one is accepted by different members of the community. Furthermore, when representing research results, some traits of the scholarly self that mattered in the research process have to be downplayed or pushed into the background and others exposed (above all those relevant for disciplinary identity).

The same could be said about people encountered in the field – when the researcher approaches and addresses them as people and not merely as research subjects their portrayal and representation via the chosen theoretical setting accentuates some of their characteristics and contexts while others remain unreflected.

Topics and subtopics to be explored by panellists include but are not limited to the following:

The (scholarly) self as a source and tool in the study of culture
- using and expressing personal experiences as sources of knowledge;
- (re-)production of the researcher’s self in the course of research;
- the shared/diverging values and worldviews of the researcher and the research subject.

Subjective ethnographic strategies
- autoethnography;
- ‘emotional understanding’ and ‘empathic reading’.

The field and representations of the field
- creation and constant re-enactment of gendered positions in the field (and in academia);
- transforming notions of the field and home;
- entering, exiting and re-entering the field;
- revisiting one’s own data/field, and re-intepretation – the possibility of seeing new layers of meaning in old material;
- representing the experiences of the researcher/people encountered in the field via different media and genres (film, hypermedia, fiction).

Organisers of the panel: Kirsti Jõesalu (CECT ethnology); Anne Kull (CECT religious studies); Riin Magnus (CECT semiotics); Pihla Maria Siim (CECT folkloristics).


Panel II: Negotiating embodied experiences

This panel focuses on embodied experiences which are shaped by our relationships with other people and surrounding environment, our everyday life and also our bodies’ physical functioning. Panellists are welcome to discuss how corporeality determines the limits of perception, shapes the content of human experience in cooperation with culture, and how the bodily aspects of individuals’ actions and interactions are socially structured. Attention will be paid to the process of mediation and role of intermediaries in the course of expressing and interpreting embodied experiences in various contexts.

Subtopics:

Bodily based experiences: borders, expressions, and transformations

The session aims to discuss bodily based experiences from different perspectives of cultural research and addresses the concept of corporeality. Embodied experience, the body in context and in action, is a primary basis of how we perceive ourselves as cultural beings. The way we make sense of embodied perceptions in turn may be shaped by ways we communicate it to others. Questions proposed include:
- To what extent are bodily experiences determined by culture and, vice versa, to what extent culture is determined by bodily experiences? How do bodily based categories of perceiving the world and oneself differ between cultures?
- How do techniques of the body, used in various cultures, mediate religious and cultural identity? How do these techniques cross temporal and spatial borders, and create new bodily based affiliations and identities?
- How are bodily experiences and transformations reflected in different folklore genres? What was the meaning of the stories and songs that included the idea of transformation in the community where they spread?

Embodied brokerage: cultural intermediaries and interpretations
This session addresses the role of cultural intermediaries, especially in cases of embodied cultural brokerage by individual agents who mediate specific cultural practices and knowledge. In this perspective the embodied performance of brokering is as important as what is shared with others. We are interested in various strategies, techniques and practices that are used for embodied brokerage in various contexts (including, but not limited to tourism, museums, festivals, workshops, etc.), considering the body as an active subject that acts, not as a passive object to be acted upon. The questions proposed include:
- How are individual characteristics of the personality and body included in the process of embodied brokerage?
- How are subjective interpretations of cultural practices created in the process of enacting?
- What kind of ethical challenges may arise from the embodied interactions of cultural mediation?

Organisers of the panel: Ester Bardone, Maarja Kaaristo, Katrin Alekand (CECT ethnology); Roland Karo (CECT religious studies); Merili Metsvahi, Madis Arukask (CECT folkloristics).


Panel III: Learning landscapes: stories, senses and sensitization

Landscape studies have recently seen a plethora of works elaborating a phenomenological approach to landscape experience, emphasizing the embodied and affective dimensions of being in and moving through places. These studies have displaced the dominance of a more constructivist approach, in which landscape experience was understood to be essentially mediated by pre-existing images and discourses. Phenomenological theorising has been criticised, however, for being unable to conceptualise the power relations and pre-configurations of experience that link the affective to wider socio-cultural and economic spheres.

The aim of this panel is to explore the scope for a constructive dialogue among different methodologies of understanding landscapes. In particular, we attempt to find ways of bridging the gap between embodied and mediated-constructional approaches to learning landscape. Recently, this tension has been addressed in writings discussing the multiplicity of landscape interfaces and labelled as post-phenomenological, material-semiotic, post-structuralist, more-than-human, etc. We would like to take this forward by probing into the relationships between the ‘stories’ (representations, narratives and performances), ‘senses’ (embodied experience) and ‘sensitization’ (attuning of experience in relation to particular discourses) involved in coming to know landscapes.

We invite empirical and theoretical contributions that develop an understanding of landscape experience grounded in the interplay of structural and phenomenological approaches.
- How do people ‘learn’ landscapes? What role does directly experiencing these landscapes play in this process?
- In what material and discursive processes is landscape learning situated?
- How are stories and representations about landscapes negotiated with sensual engagement?
- In what ways are direct landscape experiences sensitized before and after the event?
- How is embodied involvement in landscape, through work, residency or leisure, informed simultaneously by seemingly incommensurate perspectives, including those of maps, images and direct sensual perception?

We expect papers that elaborate these theoretical questions based on a range of empirical material including, for example, GIS-based studies of landscape sensing, experimental physical and cognitive approaches, affectual/emotional experiences, studies of landscape imagination, pedagogical research, and landscape planning and management.

Organisers of the panel: Franz Krause, Kadri Semm (CECT landscape studies); Tarmo Pikner (CECT cultural studies); Tiit Remm (CECT semiotics).


Panel IV: Dynamics between public and private

Culture is publicly available and privately experienced. It is simultaneously intra-personal, inter-personal and extra-personal; it exists, is stored and exchanged within, in-between and around individuals. Culture and the individual, the public and private are constantly co-constructing each other through various processes of cultural mediation. Throughout these processes of mediation, private experiences become externalised, publicly available, and public meanings and values are internalised, and come to organise our private lives. Yet these processes do not only mediate the public and private, integrate the private into the public, but at the same time define and shift the borders between them.

The panel focuses on the cultural processes of becoming public and remaining private. Panellists are invited to discuss how the public-private divide is constructed, demarcated, negotiated, and crossed in media, arts, religion and landscape. Where are the hidden borders and transitions between the private and public? When and how do private experiences become public, enter into public space? What remains private and outside public interest and access? What is the role and relevance of private experiences and values in culture? How are they revealed in the boundaries and dynamics of personal and cultural basic values?

Subtopics:

Mediation of private stories in public
- How are private stories mediated in public?
- Who mediates them and decides how and why private stories become public?
- What are the reasons behind publishing personal information?
- How have the conventions of telling personal life stories in public media changed over time?
- What happens to private stories when they become public?

Demarcation and dynamics of private and public in landscape
- How is personal space perceived and demarcated in culture?
- How do personal landscape experiences and stories merge into collective patterns?
- How does the emergence of private property change landscape?
- Interaction between private and collective value and valorisation of landscape.

Interaction between cultural and individual values and beliefs
- When subjectivity of value motivation grows into cultural objectivation?
- What are the interrelations between values systems, self-conceptions, cultural/social systems and contextual situations?
- Dynamics and stability of value change in individuals and collectives;
- How private are religious identities and how do people construct them?

Panel organisers: Halliki Harro-Loit (CECT cultural communication studies); Katre Pärn (CECT semiotics); Anu Printsmann (CECT landscape studies); Indrek Tart (CECT cultural studies).


Panel V: Death as the transformation of personhood

The panel aims to investigate how death transforms the personhood of the deceased as well as of the living, as death is considered to be one of the most dramatic changes of human agency. In the context of this panel personhood is understood as a condition/relational state of being a person, involving constant change, created, maintained and transformed through relationships with humans, things, places, animals, and other semiotically constructed entities. Conceptually personhood is understood as embracing various modes of existence: selfhood, individuality, identity, subjectness. Questions related to death and transformations of personhood will be addressed from different perspectives of cultural research focusing on their various forms in past and in present.

Subtopics:

Various techniques of changing the personhood of the deceased. Burial rituals are expressions of various ways of changing or maintaining the personhood of the dead person. As living people perform burial rituals, it gives them opportunity to manipulate the status of the deceased. How are mortuary practices and material remains affected by the personhood of the deceased? And how do these rituals and remains thereof reflect the deceased person’s identity?

Death as the transformation of personhood in social relations. Although dying is usually considered to be an individual and a private occasion, burials and death takes place in social relations. The individual body becomes the property of a society and through the change of the personhood of the deceased and transformation of the system of interpersonal relations the personhood of the grievers may also change. Death is a rupture and transformation of social interpersonal relations. How are social relations and personhoods transformed through death?

Dying and death as the transformation of personhood against the background of ultimate values. Death creates a new personhood of the deceased for living people. Although the personhood of the dead has many aspects in common, it could also differ depending on the previous life of the deceased, on context, situation and ultimate values, for example considering beliefs about an afterlife or various human encounters with the dead. The transformation of personhood does not end with a burial, it is a long process and the agency of the deceased can live on through different media (literature, art, folklore, the Internet, etc.). In contemporary and past cultures the topic of dying itself is interpreted in different performative forms analysing basic questions concerning human personhood.

Personhood in the face of death and cessation. Awareness of one’s own mortality as an individual or collective subject, reflexive ‘death-identity’ as a certain perspective in relation to the ultimateness of existence in certain quality may be a powerful force for transformation of personhood. Which semiotic regulators (e.g., ultimate values, images of death and afterlife) are activated in the face of death? How is personhood self-transformed through death as a regulative idea? How has the awareness of the probable end of the world transformed individual and collective personhoods? Which practical and symbolic activities are applied as preparations for the end of time?

Organisers of the panel: Pikne Kama, Kristiina Johanson (CECT archaeology); Aili Aarelaid-Tart, Maaris Raudsepp (CECT cultural studies); Kadri Ugur (CECT cultural communication studies).

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