Finding Their Place: Islands in Social Theory

The Island of Ven, Sweden, 27–30 August, 2010

ABSTRACTS PARALLEL PAPER SESSION B1: Identity, culture, tradition and knowledge



 ‘The Furthest Hebrides’ : Critical reach from contested shores

Kathryn A Burnett & Ray Burnett

University of the West of Scotland, UK


Scotland’s islands are paradoxically peripheral yet conceptually central to an

understanding of the layered complexity of issues relating to land and identity in

contemporary 21 st  century Scotland. Through a specific focus on Scotland’s

western isles, this paper traces the authoring of the layered constructions and

reconstructions of space and place that has produced a dense and variegated

palimpsest; the process of the ‘making’ of the Hebrides. It examines visual and

documentary representations to draw out some of the issues of ‘belonging’ and

ownership, appropriation and dissemination, in the context of the nationalidentitarian

functions of culture, that are embedded in the complimentary and

contradictory ‘ways of seeing’ the contested terrain of island cultural landscape(s).

Through a grounded multi-disciplinary approach to the issues raised and the

exemplars elaborated on, the paper opens up several overlapping and inter-related

issues of concentric and conflicting identities, delineation of the field of cultural

discourse, the inscription of meaning and value and the production of cultural

landscapes, and the deeper processes of complicity, self colonialism and


The paper concludes by advocating that a detailed study of how these processes

of ‘making’ are mediated at local (island), national (Scottish) and supra-national

(UK) level opens up new channels for further research in the intricate waters of

the cultural dynamics of authorship, ownership, ‘belonging’ and power in the

politics of land and identity.