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Scotland and Islandness

Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture

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Edited By Kathryn A. Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson

Scotland’s islands are diverse, resourceful and singularly iconic in national and global imaginations of places «apart» yet readily reached. This collection of essays offers a fascinating commentary on Scotland’s island communities that celebrates their histories, cultures and economies in general terms. Recognising a complex geography of distinct regions and island spaces, the collection speaks to broader themes of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, narratives of place and people, the ideas and policies of island and regional distinctiveness, as well as particular examinations of literature, language, migration, land reform, and industry. With a view to placing ideas and expressions of islandness within a lived reality of island life and scholarship, the collection provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the value of continued and expanding research commentaries on Scotland’s islands for both a Scottish and an international readership. 

This book should instantly appeal to scholars of Island Studies, Scottish Studies, and Regional Studies of northern and peripheral Europe. Readers with particular interests in the sociology and history of Scottish rural and northern Atlantic communities, the cultural histories and economies of remote and island places, and the pressing socioeconomic agenda of small island sustainability, community building and resilience should also find the collection offers current commentaries on these broad themes illustrated with local island examples and contingencies.

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Chapter 5 Scotland’s Islands and Cultural Work: The ‘Specialness’ of Place (Kathryn A. Burnett and Lynda Harling Stalker)

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KATHRYN A. BURNETT AND LYNDA HARLING STALKER

5.Scotland’s Islands and Cultural Work: The ‘Specialness’ of Place

This chapter discusses island places as literal and symbolic sites of cultural work and examines the textual nature of narratives and accounts that are suggestive of island cultural work as ‘special’. Our discussion is informed by a growing research focus on the emotional, embodied and material aspects of making contemporary creative forms, from across the arts – including literature, visual culture, music and dance – and of craft-making and design, as both an aesthetic but also notably a commercial activity, in and on Scotland’s islands (Lu 2015; Harling Stalker and Burnett 2016; Burnett and Harling Stalker 2018; McHattie et al. 2018). The wider context of Scotland’s islands as sites of successful creative and cultural industry (Highlands and Islands Enterprise 2014) is well documented but not without debate. We note the complex interface between arts and crafts with other creative and cultural work activities and sites of cultural production and consumption, namely media, museums and galleries, and heritage and tourism but also education, and other sectoral policies, for example, around food and drink, land and landscape, and the expansion of ‘island technologies’ (Bevan and McLean 2013). We are mindful of the complexity surrounding research attempts to capture the material and everyday lived experience of island places and environments (Butler 2012; Vannini and Taggart 2012; Stratford 2017; Boon et al. 2018; Bates et al. 2019).

Our own experiences of living and working...

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