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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 11 Islandness: Articulating and Emplacing Relationality (James Oliver)

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JAMES OLIVER1

11.Islandness: Articulating and Emplacing Relationality

It is 2020. There is a global pandemic and the Shetland Islands are formally exploring measures for enhanced ‘self-determination’.2 This statement immediately prompts images of social and political disruption that might be thought of as scene-setting for a new season of the eponymous BBC TV drama series ‘Shetland’. Or perhaps for a novel in the emerging genre of Decolonial Speculative Fiction and Fantasy (DSFF). In fact, the statement reflects a real situation and news headline in Scotland in 2020. What is obscured behind the image-making headlines of the media, of course, is the deeper complexity and nuance of lived experiences and situational imaginaries of islandness. Islandness (as with any place) is an intersection of the plurality of life. What seems less plausible is that a sympathetic researcher, in an island studies journal, will still premise their discussion of one of Scotland’s archipelagos (a different one) as ‘remote’ (Lane 2016). The trope is strong, a mode of reification that limits relationality.

In times past, almost all of Scotland’s islands (northern and western, Norse and Gaelic) were in a direct relationship with the seagoing empire of the Norse, along with the Isle of Man, at the southern reaches of the Norse-Gael routes, and Iceland at the northernmost. Across Scotland this is reflected in the large legacy of place-based and family-based names of Norse origin and relation, especially throughout the islands. Further south, an interesting legacy in the Isle of...

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