The David Buchan Lecture was launched in 2015 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Elphinstone Institute. The lecture is in memory of the influential ballad and contemporary legend scholar who was also the Institute's first appointed director. This annual event places Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the university calendar and appeals to a wide audience across the university as well as to the general public. 

Please see below for videos of our previous lectures.

Previous Lectures

2018

Memorial Interventions: Negotiating Paths through Complicated Pasts

Regina Bendix

Professor and Chair of European Ethnology, University of Göttingen, Germany

Thursday, 29 November 2018
King's College Conference Centre
University of Aberdeen

followed by a reception featuring North-east Produce


Creating suitable monuments to historical figures and events has turned into an ever more complicated endeavour. We live in a time where statues are toppled as they stand for ideologies and deeds no longer shared. Conversely, some sites memorialised for the atrocities committed within them are visited to honor the perpetrators rather than the victims. Drawing attention to components of local as much as world history has grown to be a complex field, with many different kinds of actors competing with innovative ideas.

This lecture examines a range of small memorial interventions ranging from occupational culture to Holocaust markers. Rather than working with large figures on pedestals, they are designed to subtly disrupt everyday perception. What are the motives behind such initiatives? Who pays for them? What kinds of materials are they made of and how do they seek to imprint their message onto present and future generations? Drawing from case materials in the USA and Germany, similar questions present themselves: Who is entitled to decide what should be publicly remembered and in what form? How effective are small memorial interventions in stirring public discussion of the past? And how does intentional memorial activity compare to actual evidence of historical events in everyday life?

Regina Bendix is Professor and Chair of European Ethnology at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Starting in the mid-1990s, her research interests and fieldwork focused on cultural tourism (primarily in Austria) embedded within the larger historical project of popular ethnography in the late 19th-century Austro-Hungarian Empire. Since moving to Germany, she has devoted significant ethnographic attention to the workings of the academic framework in Germany. Her research emphases continue to focus on narrative, tourism, heritage and culture, the ethnography of the senses, the history of cultural fields of research, and the culture of academia.


The David Buchan Lecture was launched in 2015 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Elphinstone Institute. The lecture is in memory of the influential ballad and contemporary legend scholar who was also the Institute's first appointed director.

This annual event places Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the university calendar and appeals to a wide audience across the university as well as to the general public.

2017

Folk Narrative as Terror Therapy in Scotland, Appalachia, and the Wake of Disasters Worldwide

Carl Lindahl

Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, Fellow of the American Folklore Society
Professor, University of Houston

Man smiling

Thursday, 16 November 2017 at 6:30pm
King's College Conference Centre
University of Aberdeen

followed by a reception featuring North-east Produce



In oral traditions worldwide, tales tend to come out at night, and they do the work of darkness. Narrators from Scotland and Appalachia use the darkness from which their tales emerge as a ground for unseen, but colorful words. These words in turn inspire listeners to fashion vivid, visual worlds which they can see only with their eyes closed. Terror may be the sharpest spur to the formation of these images—and wise narrators manipulate the fear factor to shape unforgettable lessons for their most receptive listeners. Sharing terror creates a bond that transcends fear to accomplish healing. A similar therapy is at work in the stories of disaster survivors, which are reshaped over time to convert memories of loss into scripts for salvation, and for that reason, such narratives need to be told in certain ways and under certain conditions enabling survivors the most power possible to heal themselves.

Professor Carl Lindahl (University of Houston) is a Fellow of the American Folklore Society, a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, a Folklore Fellow of the Finnish Academy of Sciences, and an internationally recognized authority in folk narrative, medieval folklore, folktales and legends, festivals and celebrations, folklore fieldwork, traditional healing strategies, and ways in which folk cultures seek and exercise covert power. Among the folk cultures he has explored are French Americans (Cajun, Creole, and Caribbean) and the regional cultures of Texas, Appalachia, and the Ozarks

Lindahl’s Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana (1997) was named the Louisiana Humanities Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He has received the Alcée Fortier Award from the American Folklore society, and has won a University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award. Among his books are Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (1997), American Folktales from the Collections of the Library of Congress (2004), and Second Line Rescue: Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita (2013).

He currently serves on the editorial boards of Fabula: Journal of Folktale Studies (Göttingen, Germany) and Folk Life (Belfast, Northern Ireland) as well as the advisory board of the Folklife and Traditional Arts program of Houston Arts Alliance.

In 2005 he founded Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston [SKRH], the world's first project in which disaster survivors have taken the lead in documenting fellow survivors' experience of disaster. He continues to co-direct SKRH, which has received worldwide recognition for its role in aiding survivors overcome the traumatic effects of hurricanes. In 2014 he convened a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference bringing together ethnographers, disaster survivors, and public health specialists from seven countries to strategize ways in which to help survivors draw upon their traditional knowledge to become more active agents in their own recovery. The conference culminated with the formation of the International Commission for Survivor-Centered Disaster Recovery, of which he is the founding organizer. Also in 2014 he began working with Haitians to create Sivivan pou Sivivan (Survivor to Survivor), a pilot program based on the model of SKRH, in which Haitian earthquake survivors interview one another. Lindahl is working to make Sivivan pou Sivivan a self-sustaining, entirely Haitian-run and Haitian-staffed program.


The David Buchan Lecture was launched in 2015 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Elphinstone Institute. The lecture is in memory of the influential ballad and contemporary legend scholar who was also the Institute's first appointed director.

This annual event places Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the university calendar and appeals to a wide audience across the university as well as to the general public.

2016

Copyrighting Tradition in the Internet Age: Creativity, Authorship and Folklore

Valdimar Tr. Hafstein

President of the Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore (SIEF)

Senior Lecturer of Folklore and Ethnology, University of Iceland

Man with scarf smiling

Introduced by Principal Sir Ian Diamond

Thursday 10 November 2016 at 6:30pm
King's College Conference Centre
University of Aberdeen

followed by a reception featuring North-east Produce


ABSTRACT
Should we copyright culture? How can one compose a one-hundred-year-old traditional lullaby? Who owns Cinderella? And what would the Brothers Grimm say?

What is the historical provenance of such Catch-22s? While we may not resolve them in this talk, the lessons we learn from picking them apart can inform our thinking about creativity and agency in contemporary culture.

In 1844, Hans Christian Andersen accused the Brothers Grimm of stealing his tale ‘The Princess and the Pea’. That Andersen elsewhere attributes this tale to oral tradition (he heard it as a child) seems not to preclude it from becoming something that others could steal from him. Bizarre?

Actually, it's not such an unusual story and the United Nations even has a special committee negotiating a new international convention that addresses such appropriations of traditional culture and traditional knowledge, in music, in medicine, and in visual and verbal art.

Beginning with the paradoxical case of a traditional lullaby that acquired a composer late in its life and ‘fell into’ copyright, this talk grapples with representations of creative agency – such as authorship and tradition – that are endowed with the force of law through the copyright regime.

My motivation is to understand the dichotomies that shape understandings of creativity so that we will be better placed to undermine them, to liberate our imagination from their powerful hold, and to imagine creativity in alternative terms.

In a digital age, such acts of liberation and imagination are badly needed; creativity is still enclosed in categories from another era and bogged down by the weight of nineteenth-century romantic ideals about the author.

Valdimar Tr. Hafstein is a Professor in the Department of Ethnology, Folklore, and Museum Studies at the University of Iceland. He completed his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004. He has published a number of articles and edited volumes on folklore, intangible heritage, international heritage politics, cultural property, and copyright in traditional knowledge. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, and Danish. Valdimar is president of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) and a former chair of the Icelandic Commission for UNESCO.


The David Buchan Lecture was launched in 2015 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Elphinstone Institute. The lecture is in memory of the influential ballad and contemporary legend scholar who was also the Institute's first appointed director. This annual event places Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the university calendar and appeals to a wide audience across the university as well as to the general public.

2015

The inaugural

DAVID BUCHAN LECTURE

Recycled Stories: Health Legends, Epidemics and the Politics of Risk

Professor Diane E. Goldstein

Woman wearing blue dress and turquoise earrings

Introduced by Principal Sir Ian Diamond

Thursday 19 November 2015 at 6:30pm

King's College Conference Centre

followed by a reception featuring North-East Produce


The David Buchan Lecture is the culmination of a year of special events to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Elphinstone Institute. The launch of this lecture is in memory of the influential ballad and contemporary legend scholar who was also the Institute's first appointed director. This annual event will place Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the university calendar and appeal to a wide audience across the university as well as to the general public.

The inaugural David Buchan Lecture will be given by distinguished folklorist, Professor Diane Goldstein, director of the Folklore Institute and chair of the department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University, the leading institution in the field. Goldstein, who specialises in medical folklore and belief, will offer a talk on medical epidemic legends and their significance to modern healthcare practice. Goldstein has served as president of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Contemporary Legend Research. We are greatly honoured that she will be joining us for the launching of the series.

Abstract

As part of community discourse about the nature of disease, legends provide powerful information about cultural understandings of disease and illness. Though fascinating, intriguing, and often frightening, health legends do more than merely entertain. They warn and inform, articulate notions of risk, provide political commentary on public health actions, and offer insight into the relationship between cultural and health truths. When taken seriously, with respect for the narratives and their tellers, health legends enable understandings of perceptions of risk, reveal local views of public health efforts, and highlight areas of health care and education that need to be improved. Health narratives, however, do not simply articulate perceptions of disease realities; they also create those realities. Told within scientific and official sectors as well as lay communities, legends play a significant role in medical, legal, and educational responses to disease and its management. This talk will explore similarities between legends concerning several epidemics and will demonstrate the importance of that information for public health.