This page contains information about my academic research, a list of publications & conference contributions

Teaching Experience:

I have ten years’ experience of lecturing, teaching and tutoring in the fields of interdisciplinary Scottish studies, cultural politics, heritage, ethnology, literature and the traditional creative arts in both higher education (Department of Celtic & Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh) further education (Newbattle Abbey College) and in non-formal contexts. I also have experience of distance and online learning through contributing to the development and delivery of a taught postgraduate course in Scottish Culture and Heritage/Cultur agus Dualchas na h-Alba, a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and & Islands. Here, I developed new courses relating to national and international debates in culture, creativity, policy and practice and was nominated by the students for a EUSA Teaching Excellence award for three years running. For more information, see here.

Research & Fellowships:

2016 - present: Research Associate, Intercultural Research Centre (IRC), Heriot-Watt University

Project: Developing a creative ethnological practice. See profile here

Since 2016, a diverse network of academic researchers, creative practitioners and cultural activists has emerged in Scotland, keen to explore the potential of a ‘creative ethnology.’ This is in part a response to the political, cultural and wider intellectual climate in the aftermath of the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, to Brexit, and to ongoing debates in the arts, culture and higher education.
For some, a creative ethnology is about finding more imaginative ways to share research through performance or creative production. For others, the creative potential is in how we engage in vital dialogue and find synergy with other fields — whether music, writing, theatre or visual and other arts or sciences. Rather than drawing on the creativity of the artist, there is a sense too in which we must become artists ourselves. For others still, ethnology speaks to the need for activism in practice; many consciously engage in different forms of cultural and political work – for example, in radical community education, consciousness raising, advocacy and social change – working alongside communities, transforming ideas into collective action.  

2012 - 2013:  Postdoctoral Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities (IASH), University of Edinburgh

Project: The Creative Cultural Vision of Patrick Geddes as a Poetics (1854 - 1932) 

Six month fellowship exploring the creative cultural ecological imagination of Patrick Geddes (1854 - 1932).

The core of Geddes’ life’s work was to see relations and make connections. His concept of ‘civics’ had a double objective: reclaiming human individual creativity on one hand, and the improvement of the environment, through informed action, on the other. Through a process of ‘synthesis to integration,’ he hoped to bridge the chasm between the academic and the civic, between thought and action, between environment and society. His understanding of cultural dynamics, often overlooked, was central to his expression of a synthetic, interdisciplinary study and world-vision.

This research fed into a series of talks and workshops at the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s Celtic Summer Schools 2014–2016.

2009 - 2012: Ph.D, Department of Celtic & Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh (AHRC funded) 

Title: The Space Between is Where the Maysie Lives: Presence, Imagination and Experience in the Traditional Ballad [archived here]

Awarded the Michaelis-Jena Ratcliff Prize for ethnology and folklore 2012, ‘an important contribution by an individual to the study of folklore and folklife in Great Britain.’ Supervised by Dr. Neill Martin.

This research is work of creative, interdisciplinary ethnology which seeks to understand the transformative power of the traditional ballad. The visit of the Maysie is a metaphorical term in Scottish folkloric tradition for the experience of aesthetic ‘chills’ in response to music, song or story — in this case, the visceral power of the unaccompanied human voice in song. In stressing the aesthetic and poetic qualities of ballad presence — rather than focusing on a collection of cultural products or folklore 'texts' - the dynamic, generative power of the ballad as a living voice is emphasised. How do we make sense of ineffable, ambiguous yet deeply moving aesthetic encounters such as the ‘ballad experience’? What is the relationship between our embodied experience and perception, and the language we use to express it?

The work is set within the theoretical framework of phenomenological hermeneutics and connects with theories of folklore performance and practice, ethnomusicology and anthropology, recent research in embodied cognition, contemporary theory of metaphor and with the philosophy of mind, language, music and art.


Kockel, U. & Mairi McFadyen (forthcoming) ‘On the Carrying Stream into the European Mountain: Roots and Routes of Creative (Scottish) Ethnology’ Anuac - Special Issue on European Anthropology

Nic Craith, M. & Mairi McFadyen (2019) 'Performing Scots-European Heritage, ‘For A’ That!’ in Ullrich Kockel, Cristina Clopot, Baiba Tjarve & Máiréad Nic Craith (eds) Heritage and Festivals in Europe: Performing Identities. Routledge

McFadyen, M. (2019) ‘The Carrying Stream: Twenty Years of Traditional Music in Scotland’, in Gerry Hassan & Simon Barrow (eds) Scotland the Brave?: Twenty Years of Change and the Future of the Nation. Edinburgh: Luath Press

Francis, D. & M. McFadyen (2018) 'The People's Parish - Singing Our Own Song', in Kevin Murphy, Damien McGlynn, Denis Stewart (eds), Making Common Cause: Exploring the Potential of Cultural Commoning London, Edinburgh, Cardiff: Voluntary Arts

McFadyen, M. (2018) ‘Referendum Reflections: Traditional music and the performance of politics in the campaign for Scottish independence’ in McKerrell, Simon and Gary West eds. Understanding Scotland Musically. London: Routledge

McFadyen, M. (2014) ‘Together in Sang: The Embodied Song Experience as Singularly Plural Russell, Ian & Catherine Ingram (eds.) Taking Part in Music: Case Studies in Ethnomusicology. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press

Essays & Articles

2019, ‘Woodland, Willow Warblers and Wild Berries: A trip to Isle Martin’ Bella Caledonia / Sunday National monthly column
2019 ‘Hamish Henderson and the Liberated Life’ Bella Caledonia
2019 ‘What Does it Really Mean to Face Up to our Climate Reality?’ Bella Caledonia / Sunday National monthly column
2019 ‘Strì an Fhearainn: Story of the Land’ Bella Caledonia / Sunday National monthly column
2019 ‘The Art of Living Together: Ceilidh Cutlure and The CommonsBella Caledonia / Sunday National monthly column
2019 ‘You Can’t Forget What You Don’t Know’ Bella Caledonia / Sunday National monthly column
2019 ‘Scotland at a Crossroads’ Bella Caledonia / Sunday National monthly column
2019 ‘Red John and the Rain GeeseBella Caledonia / Sunday National monthly column
2018 ‘Expressing the Earth: Towards a Geopoetic Creative Ethnology’ in Stravaig: Issue 6
2018 ‘The Shieling Project: Embedding Culture in a Healthy Landscape,’ in Reforesting Scotland Journal 58
2018 Featured on The Alternative UK - Finding a Radical Hope in Geopoetics
2018 Finding a Radical Hope in Geopoetics’ Bella Caledonia
2018 ‘Bothy Culture and Beyond: Review’ in Reforesting Scotland Magazine 57 - A Place To Be
2017 Bothy Culture and Beyond: A Live, Lasting Culture,’ Bella Caledonia
2016 ‘The Shieling Project: Leading in Sustainable Heritage Education,’ Bella Caledonia
2014 'Scotland the Brand,' National Collective
2014 Think Global, Act Local: a post-national cultural-ecological perspective,’ National Collective
2013 'An Open Letter to JK Rowling' National Collective
2013 'TradYES: One Month On,' National Collective
2013 'National Collective Launches TradYES,' National Collective
2013 ‘Patrick Geddes: A Philosopher for our Age?' Postmag

Conference Papers & Workshops

2019 Workshop: ‘Reclaiming the Commons and the Creative Economy: Exploring Waterscape Perspectives’, SHOORMAL Conference. New Coasts & Shorelines: Shifting Sands in the Creative Economy, Shetland
2018 Workshop: ‘Reclaiming the Commons/Recovering a Sense of World’ ‘Expressing the Earth’ conference, Wiston Lodge
2017 Workshop: ‘What would a Geopoetic Creative Ethnology Look Like?’ ‘Expressing the Earth’ conference, Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, Seil Island
2016 Workshop: ‘Patrick Geddes' Notation of Life,' ‘Outlook: Exploring Geddes in the 21st Century,’ Planning Aid Scotland national conference, Edinburgh
2015 Paper: 'An Emerging Policy Context for the Traditional Arts in Scotland' British Forum for Ethnomusicology, University of Newcastle
2013 Paper: ‘Songs and Sustainability: Exploring a Cultural-Ecological Approach in a Scottish Context.’ Traditional Song Forum Spring Meeting, Edinburgh
2013 Paper: ‘Storying the Culture/Nature Relation: Patrick Geddes’ Vision Re-imagined.’ Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Edinburgh
2012 Paper: ‘Affective Heritage as Embodied Process: The Traditional Expressive Arts.’ Association of Critical Heritage Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
2012 Paper: ‘From Representation to Experience: A New Perspective in Scottish Ballad Study.’ Innovative Learning Week, University of Edinburgh
2011 Paper: ‘Together in Sang: The Embodied Song Experience as Singularly Plural.’ European Society for Ethnomusicology, Aberdeen
2011 ‘What a voice, what a voice, what a voice I hear’: Deep Listening and the Ballad Experience in a Scottish Context.’ International Council for Traditional Music, Londonderry, Ireland


2015 'Culture: What Next?' For Culture (independent)
2014 ‘Making it Ours: Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Scotland,’ TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland)
2013 Trad Talk 2013,’ Traditional Music Forum
2012 ‘Open Fields: The Future of Trad,’ Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland
2012 ‘Trad Talk 2012,’ Traditional Music Forum