Conference on Mermaids, Maritime Folklore, and Modernity 2017 Copenhagen

  • Conference Call
  • This inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Con­fer­ence on Mer­maids, Mar­itime Folk­lore, and Moder­nity addresses the promi­nence of the mer­maid and related crea­tures from folk­lore, myth, leg­end, and the imag­i­na­tion in 19th, 20th, and 21st-​Century cul­ture. The event will take place in Copen­hagen, Den­mark on Octo­ber 2427, 2017 and is organ­ised by Island Dynam­ics.

    The past decades have seen an explo­sion of mer­maid imagery in west­ern and, increas­ingly, global pop­u­lar cul­ture. This is par­tic­u­larly evi­dent in cin­ema, tele­vi­sion, lit­er­a­ture, and var­i­ous web-​based forms but is also widely dif­fused in music, design, per­for­mance, cos­play, and other activ­i­ties. Simul­ta­ne­ously, mer­men, selkies, sirens, and newer fig­ures such as cae­celia and mer­lions have been sub­ject to rep­re­sen­ta­tion and dis­cus­sion in a range of contexts.

    From Hans Chris­t­ian Andersen’s story ‘The Lit­tle Mer­maid’ (Den lille Havfrue) to Jen­nifer Donnely’s Water­Fire Saga, from Cur­tis Harrington’s Night Tide to Stephen Chow’s The Mer­maid (美人鱼), from Edvard Eriksen’s iconic ‘The Lit­tle Mer­maid’ statue to Banksy’s Dis­ma­land dis­tor­tion, from the mer­maid show at Weeki Wachi Springs to the dig­i­tal mer­maids at Macau’s City of Dreams, mer­maids have served as fig­ures of romance, hor­ror, com­edy, mys­tery, lust, and adven­ture across count­less media and cul­tural practices.

    Cul­tural glob­al­i­sa­tion has fur­ther­more drawn a wide range of non-​western crea­tures and deities into the sphere of mer­maid asso­ci­a­tions. Rep­re­sen­ta­tions of aquatic spir­its from around the world – Thailand’s Suvan­na­mac­cha, West Africa’s Mami Wata, Indonesia’s Nyai Loro Kidul, Russia’s rusalka, Brazil’s Iara, and many more – are increas­ingly influ­enc­ing and being influ­enced by west­ern mer­maid cul­ture. This is a con­tin­u­a­tion of a process that has occurred in the West itself, as fig­ures from Mesopotamia and Clas­si­cal antiq­uity influ­enced Medieval and Early Mod­ern West­ern Euro­pean per­cep­tions and inter­pre­ta­tions of real and imag­ined encoun­ters with aquatic beings.

    Keynote Speakers

    • Philip Hay­ward – Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Syd­ney & South­ern Cross Uni­ver­sity, Lis­more, Australia
    • Jenny Kokai – Weber State Uni­ver­sity, Ogden, USA

    Con­fer­ence Topics

    Papers and pan­els are invited on all aspects of mer­maids and related enti­ties in 19th, 20th, and 21st-​Century cul­ture. Pre­sen­ta­tions will address such issues as:

    • Rep­re­sen­ta­tions in pop­u­lar culture
    • Rep­re­sen­ta­tions in fine art contexts
    • Afi­cionado cul­tures and/​or cosplay
    • Con­tem­po­rary folk belief
    • Cul­tural The­ory and interpretation
    • Sex­u­al­i­ties and identification
    • Roles as objects of hor­ror, com­edy, sex, etc.
    • Inter­na­tional comparisons
    • Offi­cial sym­bols and symbolism

    Artists work­ing in var­i­ous media are also invited to approach the organ­is­ers about pre­sent­ing their work at the conference.


    On 2425 Octo­ber, del­e­gates will explore Copen­hagen, vis­it­ing mermaid-​related sites and engag­ing in the local cul­ture. Besides see­ing Edvard Eriksen’s 1913 statue of ‘The Lit­tle Mer­maid’, which has become a national sym­bol of Den­mark, the con­fer­ence group will visit numer­ous other works of mer­folk art and engage with Copenhagen’s vibrant cul­ture. On the evening of 18 Octo­ber, del­e­gates will visit the enchant­ing Tivoli Gar­dens amuse­ment park. Con­fer­ence pre­sen­ta­tions will take place on 2627 Octo­ber at Ver­den­sKul­tur­Centret.

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