All posts tagged Conference

  • International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015, London

    I am presenting that the International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015 in London as part of the Topographies of piety: Maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage sessions. I am returning to the subject matter of my MA in history, which had a strong geographical emphasis. Here’s the abstract for my piece.

    Peregrinatio, sanctity and place in the early Celtic Church: St Adomnán’s writings on St Columba and the Holy Land in the seventh century
    Using the writings of St Adomnán, the abbot of Iona in the Inner Hebrides isles, Scotland (679–704AD), I consider how the early Celtic Church in Britain and Ireland developed distinct conceptions of the sanctity of person and place, which contributed to the emergence of Christian pilgrimage within these islands during the early medieval period. This paper is based on comparative analysis of his Vita Columbae (the Life of St Columba), which outlines the virtues and deeds of the saintly founder of the monastery on Iona, and De Locis Sanctis (On Holy Places), an account of travels to the Holy Land based on the testimony of Arculf, a Frankish bishop. It also builds on discussions of the Celtic idea of peregrinatio, the role of hagiography in the creation of spiritual landscapes and debates on the nature of sacred locations within Christianity. Through these texts, I explore how clerics from Britain and Ireland understood their spiritual and geographical place within the world, and how the figure of the saint was central to the sanctification of locations at the edge of the earth.

  • Prayers, Waves, Reverberations: An audio engagement with phenomenal pilgrimage

    My second paper at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2014 is part of the ‘Postgraduate Snapshots: Engagements in Social and Cultural Geography‘ session, which explores the different ways in which postgraduates are (co) producing social and cultural geographies through their research, collaborations, methods and encounters. Each participant presents a ‘snapshot’ (an image, object, media clip etc) of their research in a creative and interactive way.

    Prayers, Waves, Reverberations: An audio engagement with phenomenal pilgrimage
    Using an audio clip of pilgrims praying in St Patrick’s Basilica on Lough Derg in northwest Ireland, I consider how the aural and acoustic induces, enhances and disorientates the phenomenal and spiritual experience of being a pilgrim. My research, informed by the mobilities field and nonrepresentational approaches, explores pilgrimage practices in contemporary Ireland. An audio recording taken during the Night Vigil on Lough Derg, where pilgrims stay awake for 24hrs fasting and praying barefoot on a lake island, captures a portion of the atmospheric and sensuous as they unfold. Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork, I present the sounds and audio waves, which reverberate with meaning and experience, as being simultaneously created and received, embodied and asomatous, ethereal and material. Speculation on conceptual and practical approaches to and challenges for the use of audio are also offered.

    My presentation centres on a continual playing of the audio clip, to generate suitable atmospherics, as I verbally offer context, comment and speculation. In foreground the use of audio, I shall build on the increasing role for audio, sound and the sonic in social and cultural geography.

  • Ireland’s Holy Mountain: symbiosis, co-existence and tensions on Croagh Patrick

    My first paper at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2014 is within the session Sacred Space, Pilgrimage, and Tourism which looks at sacred space through the areas of the sacred, such as pilgrimage/theology/spirituality/belief systems, and the more secular, incuding tourism/leisure/promotion/visitor behaviour. My contribution is on Croagh Patrick.

    ‘Ireland’s Holy Mountain’: symbiosis, co-existence and tensions on Croagh Patrick
    In this paper, I examine Croagh Patrick, Ireland as a space that is simultaneously sacred and secular, political and recreational and of the past and present. This mountain in County Mayo, which has been the location of religious-spiritual activity for millennia, serves as one of the most prominent pilgrimages in Ireland, as well as being a venue for hill-walkers and tourists. Recent engagements with sacred spaces, being influenced by phenomenological and non-representational approaches, have conceived of them as being performed or in continual a state of becoming. Using my fieldwork experiences on Croagh Patrick, I explore how the different practices on the mountain create it as a space of devotion, leisure, protest and charity in ways which can be complementary, synchronous and frictional. By focusing on the embodied spatial practices, consideration is given to how these interactions form and forge meanings, places and participants.
    Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday

    Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday

  • Conferencing 2014 (1): AAG and PGF Midterm

    My conference season for 2014 opened with two back-to-back conferences, which were very different in many ways.

    Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers – Tampa
    The AAG is one of the largest geography conferences, attracting geographers form all over the world. Due to the scale of the event in terms of location and sessions, I would recommend that you forge your own way through the event, making careful plans as to what you want to get out of it. The conference app did make planning much easier, allowing you to highlight sessions and plan a daily schedule. Also, if you see someone you want to talk to do so there and then, as you may very well not see them again!

    Tampa Convention Centre

    Tampa Convention Centre

    Tampa Convention Centre on the river side

    Tampa Convention Centre on the river side

    I had co-organised a session with Dr David Butler (Geography, UCC and the Irish Ancestry Research Centre, UL) entitled “Routes and Rootedness in Sacred Landscapes”. I would firmly recommend this approach if you do not come across sessions of interest to you. With the large numbers involved sessions can get lost and papers which are only tangentially related can be clustered together. Also, it is very rewarding to be involved in organising a session and shaping a forum around a topic of interest to you.

    Following our call for papers, we had sufficient interest to run two sessions which had many excellent contributions. In different ways many of these papers spoke to each other and hopefully added to ongoing discussions surrounding sacredness and space. For my part, I was very happy with my paper and its reception, with several very helpful comments and conversations following.

    Session Abstract: This session aims to engage with sacred landscapes as fractured spaces, being located at the confluence of the past and present, the physical and spiritual, the practiced and believed. As Dewsbury and Cloke (2009, p. 698) have recently outlined, there is a ‘tension between what is solid, present, corporeal and material and that which inheres in the material as something mysterious, elusive, and ethereal’. In building on research over the past decade, which has explored ‘how place is sacralized’ and de-sacralization (Kong 2001, p.213), we are eager to examine sacred landscapes, both theoretically and empirically, as arenas of tension which are continually unfolding, most obviously between the sacred and the profane, but also between new movements and established faiths, development and preservation, presences and absences, materiality and immateriality, stability and change. Papers are invited which address sacred landscapes as spaces that are rooted – historically, geographically, ethnically – and routed – performed, practiced, evolving. In doing so, it is intended to consider how these spaces are affected by socio-cultural, economic and political changes that create clashes and apprehensions through multiple discourses and actions from established religions, alternative faiths, emergent denominations, Secularism, civil authorities, indigenous peoples, commercial developers, tourist industries and security services.

    The session papers:

    • Alyson Greiner (Oklahoma State University): Sacred Space and Globalization: Constructing an Intellectual History
    • Ruben Camilo Lois-González and Xose Santos (USC): New and old pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago
    • Richard Scriven (University College Cork): The Emergence of Liminality: Pilgrims, place and practices at Lough Derg, Ireland
    • Edward H Davis (Emory & Henry College): The spirit made flesh: Jazz performance and sacred space
    • Anton Gosar (University of Primorska): Western Society’s Heritage In Focus By Asian Visitors
    • Lance F Howard (Clemson University): A Labyrinth for Clemson? A project-based inquiry into place apprehension.
    • David J Butler (University College Cork): An unlikely harbinger of pre-/early Christian ritual: The Church of Ireland and its churchyards
    AAG Session: Routes & Rootedness in Sacred Landscapes

    AAG Session: Routes & Rootedness in Sacred Landscapes

    As part of the conference, I attended the meetings of several of the specialty groups. Myself and seven others joined the board of the welcoming Geography of Religions and Belief Systems Group (GORABS). I’m looking forward to working with them over the next year on matters related to the religious/spiritual and the spatial.

    Geography of Religions and Belief Systems Specality Group Meeting

    Geography of Religions and Belief Systems Specality Group Meeting

    RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum (PGF) Mid-Term Conference
    The annual midterm is a wonderful conference run by postgrads for postgrads. The midterm two years ago in the University of Nottingham was the first academic conference I spoke at and it was a excellent supportive and stimulating environment. This year was no different with the more relaxed and egalitarian atmosphere helping participants present their work and share experiences. In particular, discussions around methodologies, ethics and the practicalities of research tend to arise, which especially useful as these areas tend to be overlooking in academia, or at least sidelined. I would highly recommend the conference to any geography postgrads.

    My paper on the role of audio in my research and as a geographic methodological tool was very well received. It seemed to prompt numerous discussions and comment throughout the conference, which was reinforced by a workshop I ran with Emma Spence (PhD Candidate, Cardiff University) and Dr Robin Smith (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University) on Innovative Methodologies. I discussed the role of audio and other more-than visual methods in which the use, potential and challenges of these approaches were trashed out.

    Midterm Opening exercise

    Midterm Opening exercise

    Midterm Conference Dinner

    Midterm Conference Dinner

    Abstract for my presentation:
    Journeys through/with/of sound: using audio in explorations of the embodied, experiential and immediate aspects of pilgrimage
    This paper presents an audio engagement with the embodied practices of pilgrimage as a means of exploring and speculating on the corporeal, experiential and momentary aspects of these spiritual performances. Over the past 20 years, the role of sound, audio and the sonic has been increasingly appreciated as being central to spatial experience and the creation of place. While human geography tends to remain ontologically and methodologically orientated towards the visual-textual, numerous geographers have argued for and demonstrated the opportunities offered by engagements with the aural sphere. My research applies developments within the mobilities field and nonrepresentational approaches to the study of pilgrimage practices in contemporary Ireland. Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork, I present a collage of audio recordings to access the interactions, entanglements and tensions between self and setting in the performance of pilgrimage. I consider how the sounds, which reverberate with meaning, provide a means of linking the present and absent, the embodied and immaterial, the earthly and spiritual. In concluding, I speculate on the conceptual and practical approaches to and challenges for the use of the audio in research, writing and disseminating.