Call for papers

THE SPIRIT OF PLACE
BETWEEN THE INTANGIBLE AND THE TANGIBLE

INVITATION TO SUBMIT ABSTRACTS

Participants are invited to submit papers for the symposium. All papers must fall under one of the four sub-themes mentioned above.

Selected papers that cannot be presented orally can be presented in the form of posters (poster session).

For detailed information on the theme of the Scientific Symposium, please CLICK HERE (.pdf document).

If you wish to submit a paper, please CLICK HERE to find out about the conditions for submitting papers and to access the application form.

1. Re-thinking the Spirit of Place
2. The Threats to the Spirit of Place
3. Safeguarding the Spirit of Place
4. Transmitting the Spirit of Place

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Summary of theme and sub-themes

Wherein lies the spirit of place? In order to answer this question, we suggest examining the relationship between spirit and place, between the tangible and the intangible.

It is often assumed that the spirit of place emanates from one or the other, as stemming from either the physical object or from the specific uses it serves. Some believe that it is the product of the genius of its creator, who leaves a permanent mark on the place - the creator being an individual, a group, a community, an ancestor or even a supernatural being - while others think instead that it originates from the place itself, which instils meaning in both its creator and its users. However, these approaches tend to present spirit of place as an essence, as something singular, permanent and static.

Rather than dissociating “spirit” from “place,” the tangible from the intangible, and considering them as being opposed to one another, we invite participants to explore the many ways in which the two interact and mutually complement one another. Spirit, as the intangible genius of the creator, leaves a permanent impression on place and gives it meaning whereas the place itself, that is to say the tangible, nourishes the spirit of its creator and helps define the creation. We wish to broaden the discussion to include not only the creator but also the actual users of place, and define place as being a combination of both tangible elements (the features of the site, the buildings, the material objects, etc.) and intangible elements (oral traditions, beliefs, rituals, festivals, etc.). When considered as a relational concept, the spirit of place takes on a plural and dynamic character, capable of possessing multiple meanings, of changing over time and of belonging to different groups.

This dynamic perception of the spirit of place is also better adapted to today’s world, to the present-day global village, which is characterized by major transnational population movements, increased intercultural contacts and the emergence of pluralistic societies.

The Québec City Scientific Symposium will be structured around four sub-themes or topics of discussion. You are invited to submit papers relating to one of the following sub-themes:

 

1. Re-thinking the Spirit of Place

The first sub-theme will address the theoretical issues surrounding the relationships that exist between spirit and place, between the tangible and the intangible. We would like to examine the relation between the site itself in its physical context, the creator and the people who use it as its users can sometimes give it a very different meaning from that originally intended. It appears important to also take into consideration aspects relating to memory and examine the crucial role memory plays in the social construction of the spirit of place.

Does spirit inhabit place or does it simply reflect the thoughts of its beholder? Is the spirit of Rome, of Jerusalem, of Stonehenge embedded in their ancient stones or rather in the imagination of those who visit these places? Does Paris, the city of light, evoke the same spirit for the poet as it does for the engineer?

 

2.  The Threats to the Spirit of Place

The second sub-theme will focus on identifying and analysing the tangible and intangible threats to which the spirit of place might be exposed. The deterioration of the environment, climate change, the “touristification” of historical sites, the “folklorization” of practices and rituals, transnational migrations, new architectural icons and ethnic and religious conflicts are but some of the potential threats to the spirit of place that exist today and can sometimes lead to the abandonment, destruction and ultimately the loss of world heritage sites.

Does archaeological research bring to light or rather dispel the spirit of place? Is the addition of new architectures posing a threat to the spirit of historical cities? What impact will the emerging new values that are continuously modifying our cultural behaviour and lifestyle have on the spirit of place?

 

3.  Safeguarding the Spirit of Place

The third sub-theme will examine the practices, methods, means and tools that could be developed to safeguard and protect the spirit of place. In most countries around the world, policies and sound practices have been established in order to safeguard tangible cultural heritage. However, although great efforts are now being made to preserve intangible cultural heritage and establish appropriate conservation practices, there is still much work to be done in finding better ways of protecting the intangible elements of place.

Is the preservation of the spirit of place in professional practices taken into account when drawing up charters and declarations? Are our reference texts adequate guides? Are new technologies the opponents or supporters of spirit of place? Can spirit of place be found in the gaping holes left by masons in our stone walls? How can we get communities to be more involved in the protection of spirit of place?

 

4. Transmitting the Spirit of Place

Transmission is an essential condition for preserving spirit of place. It is through this process that heritage is passed on and thus survives. If spirit of place is not transmitted it can be forgotten, abandoned and finally disappear. Ancient sites are often repossessed and transformed: new civilisations, rival groups and explorers have successively re-appropriated the same places and left in their wake their spirit, often through intangible practices. Their passage has left its stamp on our cities and landscapes and the spirit of our sites is thus rooted in the depths of time. This reality is at the heart of the debate on spirit of place, a debate that is often political and can jeopardize the quality of transmission when spirits that should be reconciled are in reality in opposition and clash!

How can photogrammetry and the increasingly advanced technological tools used today for recording monuments, historical sites and sites of memory be used to help transmit the spirit of place? How can new information technology contribute to conserving and transmitting the intangible elements of place? Passing on historical truth – is that not the essential role of the curator and of the spirit of place altogether?

 

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