Illness and Healing in Wilderness Iceland: ‘The Stones Speak’ by Thórbergur Thórdarson

Prof. Allison Williams1, Ms.  Kaelan Brooke2

1McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

2McMaster University , Hamilton , Canada


Research in therapeutic landscapes recognizes wilderness spaces as promoting health and well-being. Beginning with Palka’s work (1999) concerning Alaska’s Denali National Park, the field has expanded to include various wilderness areas in North America and Europe. Immersion in natural landscapes promotes well-being through spiritual reflection, mental relaxation, and physical activity. Due to its abundant wilderness areas, this paper uses Iceland as a case study. Through a content analysis of ‘The Stones Speak’ by Thórbergur Thórdarson (published in English in 2012), this paper explores the physical, spiritual, and social environments of rural Iceland at the turn of the twentieth century. The historic experience of the local people presented in the novel is contrasted with the experience of modern-day visitors to Iceland. This paper concludes that the therapeutic quality of the wilderness is not universal and depends upon one’s social location and feelings of escapism.


Allison Williams is a Professor in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University, Ontario,  Canada. Trained as a health geographer, Allison works in many interdisciplinary groups, examining issues related to health, quality of life and wellbeing. In addition to keeping a pulse on applications in therapeutic landscape research, she currently holds a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Research Chair in Gender, Work and Health, and is examining how workplaces can best accommodate employees who are also juggling the role of family caregiving. She currently supervises seven trainees and works collaboratively with a range of partner organizations.

Social movements, social media, and historic landscapes: an Indonesian case study

A/Prof Tod Jones1, Transpiosa Riomandha2, Hairus Salim3

1Curtin University, Perth, Australia

2LIKE Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

3Institute for the Study of Islam and Society (LKIS), Yogyakarta, Indonesia


The International Telecommunication Union estimates 51.2 percent of the global population used the internet in 2018. While geographers have commented on half the world’s population living in cities, we have remained quiet on this faster transformation of our engagements with our environments.  This paper analyses how the affordances of social media open up new ways of being in landscapes through the ways they direct flows of attention, people, and resources, consequently entangling us in new ways with our world. We focus on a social movement in Indonesia. BOL BRUTU is a Yogyakarta-based heritage collective, active on Facebook between 2009 and 2018, that organised trips to marginal heritage sites. Using interviews, a survey, participant observation, and analysis of online discussions, we examine how the affordances social media offers to social movements contribute to making landscapes. The paper explores: the social and political context and opportunities; the use and dynamics of digital photographs and comments; the importance of social media to movements’ internal dynamics; online-offline activities; the affordances and limits of social media platforms; and the role of social media in transforming postcolonial landscapes because of their use by social movements to shape new ways of inhabiting them.


Tod Jones is an Associate Professor in Geography in the School of Design and Built Environment at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.  Tod’s research interests are cultural and political geographies in Australia and Indonesia, in particular bringing contemporary geography approaches to cultural economy and heritage issues. His current projects are on Indigenous heritage and urban planning, social movements and heritage, and applying a sustainable livelihoods approach to assess heritage initiatives.


Islands of the dead: Inscribing personal narrative and memory within the documentary representation of burial islands

Ms Emma Sheppard-Simms1

1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


From the 19th Century onwards, many Australian islands were employed as places of institutional incarceration, including prisons, asylums, Indigenous reserves, internment camps and quarantine stations. The people who were imprisoned on these islands were subjected to spatial isolation and ‘social death’; a state characterised by a loss of agency and connections to broader society. Physical death was also common, and burial grounds were established on many islands to contain the bodies of those who had been exiled to the farthest margins of society. With the exception of Australia’s continued practice of asylum-seeker detention, many of these island institutions have long since closed; their ruins and burial grounds the only visible evidence of their former use. Such sites might be called ‘burial islands’; places where the traces of violence and social death are physically inscribed upon the landscape, but remain largely invisible within broader contexts of Australian history. Within this presentation, I explore the multiple and shifting landscapes of the burial island as found within two documentary films. Specifically, I discuss how personal narratives have been reinscribed into the representation of the island landscape, thereby shifting its social meaning from a former site of exile, to a site of potential political transformation.


Emma Sheppard-Simms is a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania.  Her research interests include the geographies of exclusion and issues of environmental justice. Her PhD involves an investigation of island burial grounds as landscapes of absence and memory.

Reflecting on participatory approaches to social-science research in the development field

Miss Helena Shojaei1

1University Of The South Pacific, Kingdom of Tonga


This paper provides anecdotal evidence on the influence of the researcher in the collection of information using participatory action research methods. Participatory methods in social science research are commonly adopted as a measure to facilitate a more authentic means of data collection and to enrich participant-researcher interactions. They are viewed as an alternative to traditional “top-down” development projects, that enables improved “knowledge-sharing”, the negotiation of power relations and builds the capacity of often marginalized voices to analyse their reality. Some critics, however highlight that by simply adopting a “participatory” approach does not instantaneously dissipate the existing power structures and can in fact mask them. More broadly, consideration should be made regarding the impact of conducting research based on theoretical/conceptual frameworks designed and developed outside of the context in which they are applied. By reflecting on experiences in conducting participatory research in Tonga from 2018-2019, where themes such as, “Gods Will”, “Fonua” (sense of place in Tongan), cultural obligations and gender roles commonly arose, this paper will highlight that the researcher can serve as an enabler or disabler of the real participation of all stakeholders. This paper concludes by sharing a few of the “lessons learned” in conducting international participatory research.


Helena Shojaei a BoA in Human Geography and Planning and a MSc in Urban and Regional Planning. Helena has lived in the pacific region for several years both as a volunteer and a research consultant, namely in Palau and Tonga. Helena is interested in the influence of the “global North” in shaping the development of countries in the “global South”. She has experience in conducting participatory action research about the impact of climate stressors on the livelihoods of locals living on the island of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. email:

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