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Sequestering Tradition?: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium
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8/15/2013 to 8/18/2013
When: 8/15/2013
Where: Sterling College
Craftsbury Common, Vermont 
United States

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Sequestering Tradition?: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium
August 15-18, 2013
Sterling College, Craftsbury Common, Vermont

This symposium grows out of the premise that "cultural vitality is as essential to a healthy and sustainable society as social equity, environmental responsibility and economic viability,” as articulated by Jon Hawkes in The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture's Essential Role in Public Planning.

We view "cultural vitality” as the diverse, thriving practices and beliefs that undergird social systems and make human action meaningful. Just as environmental sustainability recognizes the critical role of ecological diversity to the survival of our planet, cultural sustainability recognizes the critical role of cultural diversity to the health and well-being of our "cultural ecosystems.” Cultural sustainability provides a framework for discussing tradition as a dynamic process, one that empowers people to make intentional decisions about their communities.

In recent years practitioners and scholars from a range of fields including anthropology, ethnomusicology, folklore and oral history have begun to explore how the concept of sustainability fits in with their work. In a related way, practitioners from fields such as arts administration, education, environmental studies, community and economic development, and community organizing have engaged increasingly with how the cultures of the communities with which they work can impact their professional efforts.

Sequestering Tradition?: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium provides an opportunity for workers across this diverse range of fields to communicate with one another around the intersections of culture and sustainability in theory and practice. Through this Symposium we hope to explore further the scope of cultural sustainability work and the core ideas that inform it.  Our title "Sequestering Tradition?” aims to raise questions about what it means to "sequester” --to capture and store-- cultural traditions in order to ensure their relevance and viability in a rapidly changing world. In addition, we ask: How can theoretical models from ecology and cultural work inform one another? How do they shape the concepts that underlie the discourse of cultural sustainability? Are there limits to these analogies? If protection and preservation of traditions are not enough, then what is?

Sequestering Tradition?: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium invites proposals for presentations and workshops that explore the role of culture in sustainability from two related perspectives:

-The introduction of the idea of culture into larger discussions of sustainability.
-The application of notions of sustainability to cultural practices and concerns.

Goals for the Symposium:

Symposium (noun), a "forum … to debate, plot, boast, or simply revel with others.”
-To examine the idea of cultural sustainability, outline key concepts and terms, and define a scope of professional practice.
-To develop models for the practical application of cultural sustainability methods and theories.
-To encourage networking among scholars and practitioners engaged with the work of cultural sustainability.

Who Should Attend:

We invite scholars, students and practitioners concerned with the impact that culture and sustainability have on/in their communities. Cultural workers and community leaders interested in developing the skills and knowledge to take action on behalf of a community will find models and inspiration at this symposium.

Presentation Formats:

We welcome proposals for 1) panels with multiple speakers organized around specific topics or themes (45 minutes), 2) individual presentations reflecting the themes proposed above (20 minutes), and 3) workshops sharing or developing specific models or practices (1.5 hours).

Proposals Should Include:

Title, format (e.g. paper, workshop, panel), name of presenter/co-presenters, name of institution/organization, email address, technological needs, and a 250-word abstract describing your proposed presentation.

Email proposals as a PDF or Microsoft Word attachment to the Cultural Sustainability Symposium Planning Committee at

Deadline for Submissions: May 3, 2013

View CFP online:


Sequestering Tradition?: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium is sponsored by the Goucher College Masters of Arts program in Cultural Sustainability, Sterling College and the Vermont Folklife Center.

The Master of Arts program in Cultural Sustainability at Goucher College (Baltimore) brings together knowledge from anthropology, history, folklore, ethnomusicology, communications, business and management, linguistics, and activism to teach students how to effect positive, community-driven change in the cultures they care about most--whether it be an African village, an American inner-city neighborhood, a remote tribe in Asia, or a threatened public space just down the street. We teach our students how to work closely with individuals and communities to identify, protect, and enhance their important traditions, their ways of life, their cherished spaces, and their vital relationships to each other and the world.

Located at the heart of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, and part of the area's growing agricultural renaissance, Sterling College is a liberal-arts college that integrates environmental studies throughout the curriculum. Sterling's mission is to "combine structured academic study with experiential challenges and plain hard work to build responsible problem solvers who become stewards of the environment as they pursue productive lives."  Sequestering Tradition?: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium capitalizes on the model of community and experiential learning at the center of Sterling's curriculum, and draws upon the resources of Sterling’s Environmental Humanities program.

Founded in 1984, the Vermont Folklife Center (VFC) uses ethnography to strengthen the understanding of the cultural and social fabric of Vermont's diverse communities. The VFC's mission is to document and preserve the cultural heritage and traditions of Vermont, and produce educational programs and publications from its archive. We fulfill our mission by conducting ethnographic field research that captures the stories and traditions of our diverse communities; by teaching Vermonters of all ages to use digital technology to document and share their own life experience and heritage; by presenting public programs that increase understanding of our ever-changing cultural landscape; and by preserving personal and family stories, photographic collections, moving images, and recordings of regional music in our multimedia digital archive.

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