I’ve just returned from the fascinating Sense of Place conference on the Isle of Terschelling in the Netherlands, a low-lying barrier Island on the distinctive Waddenzee that also hosts the large annual Oerol festival of theatre and performance. Geographers, historians, artists, musicians, policy-makers, cultural activists and others presented on a wide range of topics relating to sense of place and the specific qualities of this extraordinary tidal landscape.
There is so much interesting to relate from the conference, but in view of the large pile of work awaiting me I will stick to one excellent quote which for me summed up much of my thinking and experience over the course of the week – the final paragraphs of a paper by Dr Iain Biggs (for the full paper visit his blog):
I’ll end with two practical points. Firstly, our eco-social issues can only be adequately addressed by those able and willing to move between multiple lifeworlds without over-identifying with any one – including creative translators who are able to engage with multiple constituencies in developing ecosophical practices. Secondly, “incommunicability through protective withdrawal” is actually built into the realpolitik of academic disciplinarity, and so into the educational and operational presuppositions of the disciplined professions. To overcome this we need new, multi-constituency approaches rather than an interdisciplinarity that is all too often experienced – at least in the arts – as a form of intellectual neo-colonialism.
A multi-constituency approach would place greater emphasis on embodied forms of practical and place-specific knowledge and skill; on collective willingness to engage with the realpolitik of collective work – for example issues of trust and political truth-telling – through a more egalitarian approach to the planning, funding, and management of projects via “combative collaboration”. I’m aware this is a lot to ask but, if we want to build on the changing relationship between identity, art, and ecology, that’s what’s needed.