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 24 – 27, 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.
- Philip Hayward – University of Technology, Sydney & Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia
- Jenny Kokai – Weber State University, Ogden, USA
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 24 – 25 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 26 – 27 October at VerdensKulturCentret.