WISERD hosts Social Anthropologies of the Welsh: Past and Present

Delegates listening to presentation at Social Anthropologies of the Welsh: Past and Present symposium

WISERD hosted an evening lecture and one-day symposium at Cardiff University this week. The event was organised jointly with the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Learned Society of Wales, and the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion.

Social Anthropologies of the Welsh: Past and Present examined the development of social anthropology in Wales from the perspectives of both national scholarship and international engagement. The event brought together academics and those with an interest in Welsh history, the origins and development of contemporary Wales, and community studies.

The public lecture on Wednesday evening, held at the University’s Main Building, was given by Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, FBA and Honorary Fellow, the Learned Society of Wales (University of Cambridge), on ‘The Language of Relationship: Anthropology’s Commitment to Comparison’.

Historical photos from the Royal Anthropological Institute on display during the symposium

Historical photographs provided by the Royal Anthropological Institute on display during the symposium

The one-day symposium began with a consideration of the proto-anthropology of Gerald of Wales and went on to trace the emergence of a distinctive style of Welsh social anthropology. Folk culture and oral traditions, language and identity, music and religion all emerged as important themes throughout the discussion of Welsh social anthropology in the past. The symposium also examined the role of Welsh scholars such as Iorwerth C. Peate, William Jones, and Alwyn D. Rees.

This was followed by consideration of modern and contemporary social anthropology in Wales, in which community studies were used to examine issues of diaspora, labour and welfare, language, and identity. The symposium concluded with a keynote presentation on class, community, settlement and mobility in industrial and post-industrial south Wales by Professor Chris Hann, a Welsh anthropologist now Director of the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology, at Halle, Germany.

Professor Emeritus W. John Morgan of WISERD convened the symposium. He said: “The social anthropology of the Welsh has been neglected for many years, together with the contribution of Welsh academics to the subject more generally. The excellent papers we have heard revisited what was done in the past and shown what is possible now and in the future.

“I hope that the symposium with its scholarly outcome will reinvigorate anthropological research and teaching in Wales, including comparison with other cultures and communities.” Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, whose keynote lecture emphasised this theme, described the symposium as ‘a triumph!’

The symposium papers, to be edited by W. John Morgan and Fiona Bowie, are to be published in the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Country Series, Sean Kingston Publishing, London.