Taking Shetland out of the Box: Island Cultures and Shetland Identity
On 7-10 May 2009, the University of Aberdeen's Elphinstone Institute, the UHI Millennium Institute's Centre for Nordic Studies, and the Shetland Museum and Archives will hold an international, academic conference in Lerwick, Shetland, based at the Shetland Museum and Archives. Taking Shetland out of the Box: Island Cultures and Shetland Identity will consider Shetland's role as a meeting place for cultures and the influence of these meetings on the formation of local identity. The identities of other island communities and culturally-insular peoples will also be considered.
Calendar Customs (especially Shetland festivals)
Folk Belief and Legend
Comparative Insular Traditions
We would also welcome abstracts concerning:
Gaelic/Celtic/Scottish Influence on Shetland Culture
Nordic Influence on Shetland Culture
Over the past century and a half, the people of Shetland have been distinguished by their intense interest in local history, particularly in the islands' Old Norse heritage. Nevertheless, when the Norsemen arrived in Shetland around the year 800, the archipelago had already been inhabited for millennia, and the Norwegian settlers came into contact with native Christian Picts. While the influence of these Shetland Picts on the future Shetland Norse is still debated, the Norsemen of the Northern Isles were soon fighting against and living among the English, the Irish, the people of Caithness and Scotland, the Manx, the Gaels of the Western Isles, and peoples from Continental Europe and the Holy Land. Meanwhile, contacts flourished not only with Scandinavia but also with the new Nordic realms of Iceland and Faroe. By the time Denmark transferred Shetland to Scotland in the fifteenth century, the islands had already become distinctive and had long ago been the scene of a mingling of cultures. Nor has Shetland existed in cultural isolation for the past 500 years: fishing, smuggling, whaling, war, and oil have all played a part in the formation of a unique Shetland identity, an identity that could tell us much about the meetings of cultures in Scandinavia, the British Isles, and elsewhere.
Taking Shetland out of the Box will place Shetland and other geographically and/or culturally insular communities in context through an interdisciplinary exploration of the elements of island identity. It will include studies in folklore, anthropology, history, heritage, geography, and island studies. The conference will be international in nature, featuring participants from Europe and North America. Although the conference's theme involves Shetland culture, papers are encouraged concerning subjects that are not specific to Shetland but concern island communities (Faroe, Orkney, the Hebrides, Man, Newfoundland, Lofoten, Bornholm, Svalbard, Channel Islands, Gotland, etc.), culturally-insular peoples (the Sami, Scottish Travellers, French Canadians, Inuit, Swedish Finns, etc.), or North Atlantic history and culture. There is particular interest in papers concerning the interactions of insular peoples with other nations and the formation of insular identity and nationalism. It is anticipated that several presentations will focus on communities other than Shetland.
Conference Excursion, 7 May 2009
Our tour bus will depart from the Shetland Museum and Archives car park at 09:00. Participants should be on site by 08:45. We will begin by exploring Clickimin Broch, Lerwick's remarkable, 3000-year-old archeological site. We will then drive to Scalloway, Shetland's second-largest town, to see its now-ruined castle, originally built by Earl Patrick Stewart in 1600. Next, we will travel through Tingwall Valley, stopping at the site of the Norse Ting (parliament) and proceeding through the scenic landscapes of Whiteness and Weisdale on our way to the village of Brae.