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Constructing Scottish Identity in Media Discourses

The Use of Common Sense Knowledge in the Scottish Press


Miriam Schröder

Scotland’s efforts to establish and assert its distinct national identity have a long tradition. National identity has been a central theme throughout the centuries in a country where economic, political, and social issues have tended to be closely bound up with questions of national mentality and emotion. This book examines the part played by Scottish newspapers in constructing identity during a key period of the devolution process, 1997–2011. It uses insights from the fields of cultural and media studies, sociology, cognitive science and narratology into the ways in which culturally defined knowledge and the notions of identity emerging from it have been constructed. The study contributes to the understanding of Scottish identity, and its evaluations are relevant beyond the immediate context of Scotland and the United Kingdom.
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1 Introduction


Die Sprache ist gleichsam die äusserliche Erscheinung des Geistes der Völker; ihre Sprache ist ihr Geist und ihr Geist ihre Sprache, man kann sich beide nie identisch genug denken.

(Wilhelm von Humboldt)

Humboldt’s elementary observation encapsulates the basic idea on which this study is built, namely that language reveals a nation’s conception of reality, that is, of itself and its spirit.1 Language is a medium, the most important medium at that, by which reality becomes accessible to human beings. It contains what we know about reality, and, by learning a language, we are supplied with knowledge and conceptions of reality, allowing us to function as members of a community. Knowledge is structured and circulated in discourses which are communicative “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault [1969] 2002a: 54) and hence (re)construct reality. As discourses are socially and culturally located, they exhibit the characteristics of the social groups that produce them. Language is hence not only a means to communicate; it is the key tool that human beings use to construct reality, that is, to explain to themselves the world around them and their place in it. This is a basic human characteristic, as each of us feels the intrinsic need to make sense of reality.

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