Between Nature and Culture, Land and Sea: Spatial Practices at the Coast: A Conference Report

by Cormac Walsh

The fiftieth anniversary Conference of Irish Geographers, took place at Maynooth University, (close to Dublin, in County Kildare) from 10-12thMay 2018. In response to a call for papers for a themed session with the title: Between Nature and Culture, Land and Sea: Spatial Practices at the Coast, Ruth Brennan (Centre for Environmental Humanities, Trinity College Dublin) and I convened a double session with eight papers[1]presented to a lively audience on the last day of the conference. We were particularly interested in papers which viewed coasts and coastlines as boundary spaces and explored ways in which natural and cultural values are contested and negotiated at the coast. With this thematic focus, the session built on recent work on cultural geographies of coastal change (e.g. Walsh & Döring 2018) and was informed by a broader concern to bring together perspectives from cultural geography and the environmental humanities.

 The first paper, by Frances Rylands and colleagues from the interdisciplinary Cultural Values of Coastlines project at University College Dublin explored the concept of emotional ecologies as a means of incorporating cultural values in policy-making at the coast. Her paper addressed the question of how nature-culture relations can be narrated at the coast, working with through practices of story-telling and story-mapping. Drawing on the Lorimer’s Wildlife in the Anthropocene (2015), she spoke of the non-human charisma of seals and their role as digital personalities in the communication of particular images of nature at the coast. Her paper highlighted the importance of developing and articulating an ethic of care in relation to the marine environment and the potential role of story-telling in articulating otherwise intangible and difficult to grasp emotional responses and cultural values.

Seal photo

A charismatic seal, Glengarriff Bay, Ireland. Photo: (c) C. Walsh

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How we Started: From Roundtable Workshop to Research Blog

by Cormac Walsh, Frieda Gesing, Rapti Siriwardane

On January 23rd 2017 an interdisciplinary roundtable workshop took place at Hamburg University to explore questions of epistemology relating to the coast and marine. The concept of epistemology in its original philosophical sense refers to theory of knowledge. The term coastal and marine epistemologies has slightly broader connotations, signifying a plurality of alternative ways of knowing and conceptualizing the coast and marine , both within and beyond the academy (cf. Miller et al. 2008,  Siriwardane-de Zoysa & Hornidge 2016).

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