Monday, November 9, 2015

Conference on ‘Folk Belief’ and ‘The Supernatural in Literature and Film’


Conference on 'Folk Belief' and 'The Supernatural in Literature and Film'
21st to 24th January 2017
Longyearbyen, Norway
http://www.islanddynamics.org/supernaturalconference.html

This interdisciplinary conference explores the supernatural in literature and film as well as folk belief from around the globe.

Folk belief and vernacular religion exist in all societies. Previous Island Dynamics conferences in rural Shetland (2014) and hyperurban Macau (2015) have placed traditions of the supernatural in local contexts with long, complex histories. But what happens to folk belief in places with new communities and transient residents? Can legends and rituals thrive after their originators have departed back home?

Longyearbyen (population 2200) is the world's northernmost town, the main settlement on Norway's vast, largely ice-covered Svalbard archipelago. The polar night, when the sun never rises above the horizon, lasts from late October until mid-February. Risk of attack by polar bears means that people are only permitted to leave town in the company of someone with firearms training, and nightmares regarding bears are common among residents. This would seem to be an ideal incubator for traditions of the supernatural, yet most residents remain in Svalbard for only a season or a few years.

Svalbard's transient population has not, however, prevented the island from being associated with the supernatural in literature and film. In Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy, Svalbard is the realm of armoured polar bears. The TV series 'Fortitude', modelled on Longyearbyen, is steeped in mystery, and Michelle Paver's novel 'Dark Matter' is a ghost story set in the immensity of the polar winter.

Extreme darkness and isolation are themselves genre staples within works of supernatural horror, from the vampire-infested arctic town in Steve Niles' '30 Days of Night' to the blinded civilisation in John Wyndham's 'Day of the Triffids' to the antarctic alien terror of John Carpenter's 'The Thing'.

About the conference.
21-22 January combine tours out into Svalbard's haunting polar landscape with an exploration of the town of Longyearbyen itself. Participants will venture into the arctic darkness on snowshoes as well as visit into the tunnels of Longyearbyen's former coal mine. We will also speak with local residents concerning life and traditions in this remote community. 23-24 January will feature conference presentations by delegates, held at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen.

How to make a presentation.
Conference presentations will concern all aspects of 1) folk belief, vernacular religion, and traditions of the supernatural and 2) the supernatural in literature and film. However, presentations are especially encouraged on topics related to darkness and remoteness in folk belief and works of supernatural fiction. You are also welcome to attend the conference without giving a presentation.

The deadline for abstracts is 30 April 2016, but to ensure that you have the opportunity to take part in the conference and have the time to seek funding from your institution or government, we recommend that you submit your abstract early. (Due to the logistical challenges arising from the conference's remote location, only a limited number of delegates can attend, and we will be accepting registrations on a 'first come, first served' basis.) You can submit an abstract here: http://www.islanddynamics.org/remote/cfp.html

Enquiries: info@islanddynamics.org
Sponsored by: Island Dynamics


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