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Accepted Contribution:

Being open to the more-than-human: practices amongst literary writers in Iceland  
Charlotte Christiansen (The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies)

Contribution short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Iceland, this contribution shows how practices of literary writers involves being open towards the more-than-human. It is discussed how this writing work can be understood as a restoration of one’s lifeworld. The contribution opens with a poetic montage.

Contribution long abstract:

In European culture, images of the individual (male) writer genius have been persistent. Yet, recent ethnographic studies have supported that the single writer often emerges from an essential social infrastructure (Wulff 2017, Brandel 2023). My on-going ethnographic research with literary writers in Iceland has further undone the image of the individual writer, yet on a new dimension.

In describing their writing process, interlocutors pointed to a larger force they needed to submit to: the shadowy sea of the subconscious, a dharma, or an overpowering flow. Afterwards, texts were edited with calculated decisions, but the state of openness was a prerequisite for ‘good sentences’ or storylines to appear. To become open to this flow, writers went to the swimming pool (Sundlaug), went on walks in natural landscapes, or even moved to live in the countryside. These actions seemed to help shift attention to the body and a more kinesthetic mode of being (see also Petitmengin 2016: 33), and involve an attunement towards self-environment relations. Writing thus seemed to require an opening towards ‘something’ beyond the subjective, human consciousness and will. This contribution explores how this ‘something’ might be understood as more-than-human.

Seeing writing as not only an interpretation of an already existing reality, but also an act upon the world, I suggest that the work of my interlocutors could be understood as acts of restoration of their lifeworld.

The contribution opens with a short poetic montage to cast light on the ethnographic material through academic and artistic modes of expression.

Roundtable ORT121
Ecosystemic awareness in the doing and undoing of anthropology
  Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -