Heriot Watt University

Interpreting the Soviet liberation: the perspective of the Baltic States and Russia

11 October 2016 - 16:15-17:05 [SR114]

Tomas Kavaliauskas

Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas & University of Klaipėda

Registration closed

IRC Symposium 2016

Intercultural Scotland: Challenges and Opportunities

19 May 2016

More than 60 participants attended the IRC's first symposium on 19 May 2016, considering challenges and opportunities faced by an increasingly multi- and intercultural Scotland.

Spurred on by the campaigns leading up to the 2014 independence referendum, there have been several tropes of a continuing debate about what, where and who Scotland was, is, and should become. One strong trope is the idea of Scotland as a trans-/intercultural society capable of an inclusive form of nationalism encompassing the "new Scots" within a way of national identity that is rooted in a shared culture rather than civic codes or descent. The symposium critically examined that trope and its wider implications, with particular focus on key areas of research at the IRC: cultural heritage, migration and language, narrative & memory, socio-cultural policy, sustainable development, and tourism management.

BAAL Workshop


New plurilingual pathways for integration: Immigrants and language learning in the 21st Century

 Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 26th & 27th May 2016

With support from BAAL, the IRC's Nicola Bermingham organised this event as part of the BAAL / Cambridge University Press Applied Linguistics Seminar Programme 2015-2016 and COST Action IS1306 "New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe: Opportunities and Challenges".

Read the Call for Papers.


Politics of Language in Scotland

Tales of the standard and non-standard in Scotland

Dr James Costa
Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies
University of Oslo

Wednesday, 11 November, 3pm [room tba]

This presentation will question whether analyzing social issues in terms of regimes of language can refine how we problematize and understand language in society. It will draw on ongoing fieldwork on minority language standardization in Scotland to ask how the study of language regimentation is a way to productively link language ideologies, practices and political economy and to understand how ideologies are organized and by whom in order to shape moral orders, i.e. mutual rights and obligations. Focusing on standardization as a sociolinguistic regime premised on the idea that everyone potentially has equal access to a linguistic standard, the speaker will analyze how specific social actors mobilize categories of ‘language’, ‘dialect’ and ‘accent’ under the present ideological conditions in post-independence referendum Scotland to understand what it entails for whom: in other words, how do people do dialect or language? How are people’s actions constrained and regimented within the social space that the existence of such ideologically bound categories permits, and how are boundaries moved to implement or impede social changes? Based on the analysis of language debates over the desirability of (not) standardizing Scots, it will be argued that the regimentation of language is fundamentally about defining and managing the public space and who has access to it, and under which conditions.

Dr Costa's current research builds on his work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo working as part of the STANDARDS-Standardising languages in Europe research project, led by Dr Pia Lane. He is currently trying to understand the politics of standard/non-standard language in Scotland, focusing more specifically on the registers that can be termed Scots, non-standard English etc. Broadly speaking, he is interested in contrasting the politics of standard/non-standard language in Scotland with access to the public sphere: who get's to talk, to say what, under what conditions and circumstances? Central to this work is the question of the legitimate speaker, and research in this area is also his main contribution to COST Action IS1306 "New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe" (led by Professor Bernadette O'Rourke, Heriot-Watt University, and Joan Pujolar, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). Dr Costa has been associated with the COST network since the onset in 2011, and is currently co-coordinator of WG10 ("Legitimacy and Power") with Dr Alfonso Del Percio (University of Oslo).

For further details, please contact Prof. Bernadette O'Rourke.

Film Screening

Joint event with CTISS

Sunday 11 October 2015 – 2.00pm [Filmhouse, Lothian Road]

The Tribe” (Plemya) – Winner of the 2014 International Critics' Week Grand Prize at Cannes, told entirely through un-subtitled Ukrainian Sign Language

Special screening followed by a panel discussion, in spoken English and British Sign Language with panellists

  • EJ Raymond (actor, writer and founder of Turtléar)
  • Andy Carmichael (sign language interpreter, TV producer)
  • Nicholas Padden-Duncan (freelance sign language professional and director of Kumquat & Co.)
  • Professor Ursula Böser (Department of Langauges & Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh).

Tickets £9.00/£7.20conc.

Registration closed.

IRC Seminars 2015/16


All welcome!

Attendance is normally free, but places may be limited.

Please register in advance, using the links below.

21 October 2015 – 3.15 pm [MB147]

Dr Maria Economou (Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute, University of Glasgow)

Evaluating the Use of Digital Cultural Resources: Issues and challenges


4 November 2015 – 9.15 am [DB115]

Dr Norin Arshed (Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University)

Festivals and Sustainability

2 December 2015 – 12.15 pm [MBG13]

Prof. Ullrich Kockel (Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University)

Youth Towards the East: An aspect of post-War Germany, 1951-75

2 December 2015 – 3.15 pm 

Facundo Reyna Muniain (Romanisches Seminar, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel)

Language and Identity in Diaspora Context in Argentina


20 January 2016 – 3.15 pm [MBG20]

Dr Nina Parish (Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, University of Bath)

Suitcases, Keys and Handkerchiefs: How are objects being used to collect and tell migrant stories in Australian museums?


28 January 2016 – 1.15 pm [MBG13]

Dr Ashvin Devasundaram (Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University)

Breaking Bollywood Conventions: The Brave New World of independent Indian cinema

2 March 2016 – 3.15 pm [MBG13]

Sandie Dawe (Visit Britain)

Nation Branding and Soft Power: A comparative perspective

23 March 2016 – 3.15 pm [MBG13]

Prof. Victor de Munck (Center for Social Anthropology, Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas)

Towards a Cognitive Theory of Culture

13 April 2016 – 3.15 pm [MBG14]

Toma Pustelnikovaitė (School of Management, University of St Andrews)

Foreign-born Academics in UK Universities: Investigating their migration and employment experiences

9 May 2016 - 5.00 pm

Prof. Stephen May (University of Auckland)

Language revitalisation and linguistic superdiversity: Prospects and challenges


11 May 2016 - 3.15 pm [MBG14]

Claire Johnstone (Intercultural Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University)

Walking the Landscape: Place Attachment and Routes toward a Personal Heritage

21 June 2016 - 3.15 pm [MBG14]

Dr Tytti Steel (Social & Economic Sustainability of Future Worklife Consortium, University of Helsinki)

Sustainable working life - Participatory research from the point of view of Nordic Ethnology

Registration closed.


Thought Leadership Series


Can Scotland play a leading role in redefining Heritage?


Before the referendum the Scottish National Party promised that in the event of a yes vote, Scotland would sign up to UNESCO’s Charter for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). In the current political climate, it is unlikely that Westminster will proceed with ratification of the Charter.

Heriot-Watt held a debate on 4th June chaired by Ann Packard (Chairman, RSA Scotland) on whether or not this would impact on the role Scotland can play in leading international conversations on ICH.


  • Professor Máiréad Nic Craith, Professor in European Culture & Heritage, Heriot-Watt University
  • Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland
  • Luke Wormald, Head of Historic Environment Strategy, Scottish Government
  • Janet Archer, CEO Creative Scotland
  • Colin McLean, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland

The context for the debate was set by Heriot-Watt’s Professor Máiréad Nic Craith, who argued that the current twin-track approach of tangible/intangible heritage should be replaced with a more holistic approach to heritage practice generally.

In her presentation, Joanne Orr (CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland) outlined the implications of the UNESCO Charter for ICH generally as well as giving insights into the benefits and drawbacks of the UK’s non-ratification of the Charter.

Focusing on Our Place in Time - The Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland, Luke Wormald (Head of Historic Environment strategy, Scottish Government) gave insights into the Government framework which sets out a 10 year vision for the historic environment in Scotland which places great emphasis on community engagement with heritage.

Janet Archer (CEO Creative Scotland) and Colin McLean (Head of Heritage Lottery Fund, Scotland) emphasised the importance of ICH for their respective organisations and the manner in which they support ICH in Scotland.

Following the presentations, there was a lively discussion on Scotland’s international contribution to heritage practice. Interesting questions raised included issues of heritage and gender, British Sign Language, and whether heritage can promote healing. The debate was attended by a wide range of participants from across the heritage sector in Scotland as well as from universities in Scotland and England.

You can read our Storify account of the debate here.

SIEF Congress 2015

SIEF2015Raising the Standard of Intercultural Research: 
Heriot-Watt profiled strongly at major international congress

From 22-25 June 2015, members of Heriot-Watt’s Intercultural Research Centre (IRC) participated in the 2015 congress of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) in Zagreb. SIEF is the main international learned society in its field.

The theme for 2015 was “Utopias–Realities–Heritages”, and the IRC team contributed significantly to the debate, not just by the usual conference activities of presenting papers and chairing panels. Although for most of the team, this was their first SIEF congress, they impressed their peers with originality and commitment, as evident not just in the conference’s Twitter feed.Anna

The papers they presented ranged across a broad spectrum of topics: Postgraduate members presented a semiotic analysis of clothing, heritage & identity of Russian Old Believers in Romania (Cristina Clopot), a case study of fundraising for the National Trust Scotland (Anna Koryczan), and ethnographic insights into Lithuanian migration to Scotland (Vitalija Stepušaitytė).

Staff members explored how emotional scripts of medieval passion plays are re-imagined for and by contemporary audiences (Dr Kerstin Pfeiffer), whether Derry~Londonderry’s year as UK City of Culture 2013 succeeded in generating a shared story for the city (Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, written with Dr Katerina Strani and IRC associate member Dr Philip McDermott), and political dimensions of place and belonging among displaced groups (Prof. Ullrich Kockel, reporting on his SML-IRG funded research project on expellee and refugee youth after World War Two).

Two IRC associate members also spoke at the conference: Dr des. Nandini Senroy on lived spaces of waste picking communities in Calcutta, and Dr Salma Siddique about memories and expectations of home in the context of post-traumatic counselling. Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, jointly with Prof. Kristin Kuutma (Tartu/Estonia), convened a three-session panel on heritage as social, economic and utopian resource, which received numerous enthusiastic Tweets from participants.

SIEF’s research working groups met on the second evening of the congress. Kerstin Pfeiffer was elected secretary of newly formed SIEF working group “Body, Senses and Emotions”, and Ullrich Kockel presented his final report on the “Place Wisdom” group, which he had led since establishing it in 2009, before handing over the baton to Prof. Katriina Siivonen (Helsinki) and Dr Stella Butter (Gießen).

thumb IMG 20150618 135233297 1024The creative workshop format was introduced by Prof. Kockel for the 2008 SIEF congress in Ulster.
In Zagreb he led a IMG 0591workshop developing further a funding proposal for an interdisciplinary exploration of “waterscape perspectives” on cultural heritages and sustainable development. Doctoral student Vitalija Stepušaitytė led a workshop on “Mapping Home”, which involved inter alia the creation of a 3D-map using thread, cardboard and two chairs; an interactive sketch map of truckers’ home on the road; the soundscape of Latvian solstice songs; and the drawing of life journey maps and building of paper-craft models to capture different experiences and ensuing narratives.

As a result of this workshop, she was picked by one of the most highly regarded senior researchers in the field, emProf. Orvar Löfgren (Lund), to join a group of 9 young researchers from around the globe for the final session of the congress, where they were introduced as “representing the future of ethnology”. Prof. Löfgren commended her workshop as an exemplary and most inspiring approach demonstrating new ways of practicing ethnology. In her contribution to the session, she raised the question of whether and how we can give tangible expression to complex cultural phenomena.

In contributions from the floor during this final session, senior scholars emphasised the importance of heritage research and the need for a greater emphasis on ecological issues – both areas in which the IRC has particularly strong expertise. The IRC members came away from this conference not only feeling proud of their team effort and achievements, but reassured by their international peers that they are part of an innovative venture that is seen as leading research in the field.

Read the IRC Storify on SIEF2015.

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