Hildaland, or, Bringing the Ice: Reflections on Missing Persons, Intermittent Islands, and the Ethnography of Uncertain Presence

Taking its cue from the loss (more precisely, the disappearance) of a close friend and sometime collaborator, and drawing on my long-term fieldwork on an experimental arts festival held annually in the Orkney Islands, this essay reflects on the challenges of documenting uncertain or intermittent presence, as well as the possibilities the latter affords for unsettling and expanding received conceptions of identity, place, and belonging, especially in a political moment in which these are being defined in increasingly narrow and exclusionary terms. Bringing ethnography and autoethnography into dialogue with literature, visual arts, and oral storytelling, it suggests that anthropology can most effectively respond to the challenges of the present by acknowledging that it is, inescapably, a creative as much as a descriptive practice.

Stuart McLean is professor of anthropology and global studies at the University of Minnesota. His most recent book is Fictionalizing Anthropology: Encounters and Fabulations at the Edges, as well as the co-edited book Crumpled Paper Boat: Experiments in Ethnographic Writing.

Zoom Link:
Meeting ID: 812 1179 0732
Password: 968025

Date & time

Mon 25 Sep 2023, 3–4pm


3.369 in the Coombs building


Stuart McLean, University of Minnesota


Natasha Fijn


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