Research interests: 

ethnology; ethnomusicology; Scottish studies; cultural politics; cultural policy; traditional creative arts; visual culture; creative practice; performance and practice; intangible cultural heritage (ICH); phenomenology; hermeneutics; aesthetics; embodiment; geopoetics; cultural ecology; cultural democracy; commons; degrowth



2009 - 2012: PhD, 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.’

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. 'Ballad presence' is understood as the moment where sensation, memory and imagination coalesce in lived experience. 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. 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.


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

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

The core of Patrick Geddes’ life’s work was to see relations and make connections. 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 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. This research seeks to understand on Geddes’ creative cultural ecological imagination as a poetics. I argue that his understanding of cultural dynamics, often overlooked, was central to his expression of a synthetic, interdisciplinary study and world-vision.

2015 - present: Research Associate, Intercultural Research Centre (IRC), Heriot-Watt University

Project: Developing a creative ethnological practice

In Scotland, a diverse network of academic researchers, cultural activists and creative practitioners is emerging, keen to explore the potential of a 'creative ethnology.' For some, a creative ethnology is about finding more imaginative ways to share our 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. A creative ethnology does not seek to re-construct or re-perform the past, however; it seeks to inspire a process of re-engagement with a broader and deeper understanding of culture in this place as part of a future-oriented project.

Conference Papers/Workshops

2017 Paper/Workshop: ‘What would a Geopoetic Creative Ethnology Look Like?’ ‘Expressing the Earth’ conference, Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, Seil Island, Argyll
2016 Paper: ‘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