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

24 September-02 October 2019, Svaneti & Tbilisi, Georgia


Why are some places especially prone to associations with the supernatural? Might it be because of liminal geographies, of the complex histories of ancient human landscapes, of fear about what lurks in the darkness? Are communities’ beliefs shaped by the environments in which they live, or does the recurrence of certain belief across environmental and geographic divides suggest that place is ultimately irrelevant? When we read a book or watch a film with supernatural themes, is the setting just window dressing, or can the mountains, the palaces, the forests, the skyscrapers be characters in their own right?


Previous conferences in this series have been held on remote islands (Shetland’s North Isles, 2014), in a hyper-dense city-state (Macau, 2015), and in the polar night (Svalbard, 2017). In 2019, the conference will go farther and higher than ever before, venturing up into the wild mountain valleys of and ancient cities of Georgia, a country at the crossroads of East and West.


This conference considers the themes of 1) folk belief, legends, and vernacular religion and 2) the supernatural in literature and film. We will combine academic presentations with explorations of communities in Georgia’s Svaneti and Tbilisi regions. Special emphasis will be given to the question of the role that ‘place’ plays in the conceptions of the supernatural: from folk narratives to local religious traditions; from the monsters, fairies, and witches of cinema to the miraculous in literature. Could these tales and customs occur just about anywhere? Or do they take place in the just the place they need to be?    


How to make attend and make a presentation.

Presentations are welcome on all aspects of of either folk belief or the supernatural in literature and film, though we encourage delegates to address the theme of the role of place in conceptions of the supernatural. Presentations last 15 minutes and will be followed by around 5 minutes’ question time. Note that, due to the ‘remote’ location of the conference, audio-visual aids will not be available for presentations.


The first deadline for abstracts is 30 September 2018. (Later abstracts may be accepted if there is room available at the conference, but people who submit an abstract prior to the deadline will have the first opportunity to reserve a spot and to take advantage of the early registration rate.) You can submit your abstract here. The deadline for early registration is 30 November 2018.


If you have any questions, please e-mail convenor Sally Campbell Galman (sally@educ.umass.edu).




About Svaneti & Tbilisi, Georgia.

Svaneti, located in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, is the homeland of the Svan people. The conference will be held in Mestia, a village on the Inguri River in Upper Svaneti. The conference group will also travel to Ushguli, which at an altitude of 2100 meters above sea level is among the highest settlements  in Europe.


Although peripheral to the great kingdoms and empires of the region, Svaneti’s control over the mountain passes made it strategically important in ancient times. Svaneti’s dramatic natural landscape of mountains, glaciers, and rivers has sculpted strong cultural traditions and contributed to the preservation of its exceptional built heritage in the form of hundreds of distinctive tower houses and scattered valley villages. As a result, Upper Svaneti was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.


The conference begins and ends in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city. Tbilsii lies on the ancient Silk Road between Asia and the Mediterranean and has long been a meeting place for cultures. Delegates will explore Tbilisi’s rich historical tapestry, including its exquisite Medieval old town. We will also visit the nearby ancient city of Mtskheta, home to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Jvari Monastery.

 

About the conference.

Delegates should arrive in Tbilisi on 24 September to participate in a tour of Tbilisi and Mtskheta on 25 September. On 26 September, the group will travel to Mestia in Svaneti, a day-long trip including stops along the way in the historic cities of Kutaisi and Zugdidi. On 27 and 30 September, we will explore Mestia and its surroundings, including Chalaadi Glacier and the village of Ushguli. Conference presentations will be held in Mestia on 28-29 September. On 1 October, we will return to Tbilisi, with stops around the ancient city of Gori. Delegates can depart Tbilisi from 2 October.


Convenor: Sally Campbell Galman