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Folklore, Geography and Environment: Ways of Knowing Water, Landscape and Climate in the Anthropocene

  • 14 to 16/07/2023
  • The Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, 27 High St, Hull, HU1 1NE, and online

‘Folklore, Geography and Environment: Ways of Knowing Water, Landscape and Climate in the Anthropocene’

A Folklore Society Conference

Friday 14 to Sunday 16 July 2023

at The Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, 27 High St, Hull, HU1 1NE, and online

Scientific knowledge tells us that the Anthropocene’s climate crisis will bring huge changes to the way that water flows in, around and alongside landscape. Sea levels may rise up to 1.1m by 2100, with substantially higher rises likely if Antarctic ice-melt increases (IPCC, 2019). Taken together with increasing severity and frequency of extreme coastal flooding and weather events, it is clear that our relationships with water in the landscape—both in excess and scarcity—face an unprecedented challenge.

This hybrid conference responds to that challenge in two ways.

Firstly, it asks what other kinds of knowledge might inform our responses to the challenge of increasingly volatile relationships with water: what can anthropologists, folklorists and human geographers tell flood and climate science about human/water/landscape relationships?

Secondly, it asks how we can make that other knowledge intelligible to mainstream climate and flood science: how is knowledge about the human/water/landscape relationship co-produced and reproduced? What distinctive perspectives can scholarship from outside the physical geo-sciences bring to the urgent need to develop realistic, Anthropocene-ready resilience strategies?

Download the Programme

Download the Abstracts

Register to participate online

Register to participate in person, and for Day Rates: please contact us


Friday 14 July

12:00     Registration opens (online and at The Wilberforce Institute); online conference opens

12:50     Welcome and opening words by Briony McDonagh

13:00-14:30         Session 1:           Water Transformed

Tatiyana Bastet (in person) Water Dwellers, Disaster, and Dolls: Portable Material Culture and Distributed Memory.

Alan Murdie (in person): Water, Extreme Weather Events and Climate—Some Environmental Patterns Reflected in Ghost Folklore.

Manuel Ernst Erich Helmus (online): The Fisherman and his Line in the Anthropocene—Transformative Fishing Practices in Larena, Siquijor Island, Philippines.

15:00-16:00         Session 2:             Rivers

Devender Kumar (online): Water and its Folklore in North India: A Case Study in a Haryanvi Village.

Joe Shute (online): Cultural Daylighting: Using Stories of The Past and Present to Re-Imagine Lost Urban Rivers and Influence Future Regeneration.

16:30-17:30         Session 3             Water Cultures

Magdalena Buchczyk (online): Salvaging Wetlands, Safeguarding Heritage?

Kate Smith (in person): Risky Cities: Using Arts and History for Flood Resilience

17:30-18:30         Drinks and light refreshments

Saturday 15th

09:30-11:00                         Sessions 4a and 4b (parallel sessions)

Session 4a           Salty Waters

Gary Robinson (in person) and Lynda Yorke (online): Responding to a Dynamic Environment—A Long View of Coastal and Maritime Communities in North Wales.

Rajalekshmi G.R. (online): ‘Eyes on their Fingertips’: A Study on the Social-Ecological Memory Underlying the Ecoliteracy of the Fisherfolk Community of Thiruvananthapuram.

Tabitha Peterken (online): Superstitions and Practice: A Protective Boundary.

Session 4b           Rituals and Holy Waters

Manolis Varvounis (online): Water Rituals in Greek Folk Culture (19th -20th C.): A Contribution to the Study of Greek Water Cultures.

Sarah Jane Boss (in person): Riverine Shrines of the Virgin Mary in the Region of the Bristol Channel.

Sophia Kingshill (in person): Bogs and Bog Bodies: Responses to a Landscape.

11:30-13:00                   Sessions 5a and 5b (parallel sessions)

Session 5a           Shrimp and Rice

Cahya Gemilang and Rapti Siriwardane (online): Spectral Ecologies of Submergence: Tracing Shrimp, Jasmine, and Ancestral Graves in Java

Helen Underhill (in person): Water Cultures: Understanding Dynamic Risk Landscapes Faced by Agricultural Communities Subject to Environmental Changes.

Femke Vulto (in person): Sailing the Dark; the Cultivation and Productivity of Ignorance amongst Dutch Shrimp Fishers.

Session 5b           Flowers

Richard Bradley (in person): Well Dressings: A Controversial History.

Nidhi Mathur (online): Diverse Roles of River “Ganga” in Indian Folklore.

Lucy Hornberger (in person): ‘The Thames is the New Ganges’: Hindu Visarjan Immersion Rituals and British Rivers.

14:00-15:30                    Sessions 6a and 6b (parallel sessions)

Session 6a           Divergent Waters

Rachel Lobo (online): The Lake is History: The Visual Culture of Black Mariners on Lake Erie.

Daniel Keech and Susie Olczak (in person): Narratives of the Extreme—Can it Get Any Wetter?

Paul Cowdell (online/in person): ‘The sky is too big’: Reclaimed Flatlands and their Communities, What Happens When the Edge of the World Becomes its Centre, and Romanticisation in Fieldwork.

Session 6b           Delta and Flood Plain

Adam Grydehøj and Ping Su (online): How Do We Know the Delta? Disappearing Islands, Changing Waterscapes, and Altered Lifeways in China’s Pearl River Delta.

Robert Piotrowski (online): Folk Narrations about Water Bodies in the Southern Baltic Lowland: From Geomythological Interpretations to Examples of Symbolic Eco-Symbiosis.

Cornelia Florea (in person): The Whims of Nature, the Stories of People: The Danube River and Its Materiality.

16:00-17:30         Session 7             Water in the Land

Hanna Geschewski (in person): Circumambulating for the Rain: The Role of Folklore, Spirituality, and Faith in the Farming Practices of Tibetan Refugees in South India.

David Hopkin (in person): The Passions of the Flax, Continued.

Vito Carrassi (online): Flood as a Landscape Creator: From City to Lake (and Something Else).

Sunday 16th

09:30-11:00         Session 8             Maps

John Björkman (online): The Cartography of Placelore: Historic Maps as a Source Material for Understanding Patterns in Folk Belief.

Stuart Dunn (in person): Imagining Atlantis:  Challenging Pseudoarchaeology with Maps and Folklore.

Kathleen Ragan (in person): The Narrative Map on an Evolutionary Timescale.

11:30-13:00         Session 9             Stories of Water

Rosalind Kerven (in person): Dragon Kings of Drought and Flood: Taming Fears of Climate Disaster in Chinese Folk Narratives.

Chris Hare (online): The Encroaching Sea and Dragon Ponds – Aquatic Folklore of the Sussex Coast.

Angelika H. Rüdiger (in person): The Welsh Fairies, Supernatural Characters, and the Meaning of Water in Welsh Literary Motifs from the Middle Ages up to the Present Time.

13:00: conference closes


Venue: This will be a hybrid conference, taking place at The Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, 27 High Street, Hull, HU1 1NE, and online via Zoom.

Conference Fees: All participants apart from student speakers and University of Hull students are expected to pay the conference fees:

Online participants
Standard Rate
: Full conference: £90.00, book via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folklore-geography-and-environment-tickets-648282679947

or Day Rates: Friday £35 / Saturday £60 / Sunday £35: to book, please contact us

Concessionary Rate (Speakers, Folklore Society Members, Students, Seniors):
Full conference £70.00, book via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folklore-geography-and-environment-tickets-648282679947

or Day Rates: Friday £25 / Saturday £40 / Sunday £25: to book, please contact us

In Person participants: to book, please contact us

Standard Rate: Full conference £140.00, or Day Rates: Friday £45 / Saturday £90 / Sunday £45

Concessionary Rate (Speakers, Folklore Society Members, Students, Seniors):
Full conference: £90.00, or Day Rates: Friday £35 / Saturday £50 / Sunday £35

University of Hull Staff: £30 (full conference, in person or online)

University of Hull Students and Student Speakers: free

Booking Form: please download and return the booking form

Catering: The in-person conference fee includes teas/coffees between sessions. Other meals are not provided.

Accommodation is not provided but here is a list of hotels in and near to Hull city centre.