- PhD candidate
Room 521, East Quadrangle
Adapting Landscapes: Putting Scotland's Cultural Heritage in Question
Summary of Research
The idea that Scotland's quintessential landscapes are remote, rugged and wild is deeply ingrained and popularly rehearsed. For many among us, the landscapes of the Highlands and Islands are a touchstone, to which are moored imaginative, romantic feelings of national identity. This same landscape imagery is reproduced as cultural heritage, continually circulated and mediated to sell Scotland on the world stage. As Withers (1992: 143) observes ‘The Highlands are both real – an area of upland, geologically largely distinct from the rest of Scotland – and they are a myth, a set of ideologically laden signs and images’. Celebrated as wilderness and as cultural hearth (MacDonald 2013), this essential landscape does much to obscure a 'motley assortment' of other heritage landscapes (Lorimer 2013), themselves replete with cultural meaning, significance and association. The argument for ‘opposite’ landscapes is given added traction when we remember the demographic fact that the majority of Scotland's population inhabits the urbanised central belt in which landscape qualities of 'wildness' and 'remoteness' are generally lacking. Despite this “grandeur deficit”, there is increasing recognition that exurban, post-industrial, partially degraded or abandoned landscapes have the capacity to generate intensities of belonging and attachment, reflecting new, distinctive heritage values (Orton and Worpole 2013). Consider, for example, the remediated shale “bings” of West and Midlothian (familiar landmarks for the average Scotrail commuter), that have gradually transformed from waste to monument, existing both as ‘process sculpture’ and bio-diverse leisure landscape (Richardson 2012).
This research project will focus attention on the formative aesthetics of this ‘new Scottish landscape’. The primacy of wilderness within the national consciousness will be challenged. As a cultural alternative, more proximate landscapes that are ‘botched, buggered and beleaguered’ (Lorimer 2013) will be the subject of inquiry. The project will initiate a series of experimental landscape studies, offering fresh perspectives on how we should approach, define and value heritage landscapes in the near future. Methodologically, I will seek to embed myself in each emergent landscape, treating it variously as social situation, as material process, temporal event and lived reality. Through a diverse range of forms of fieldwork and observant participation, I will variously document these sites, amassing notes, still photographs and filmed footage so as to be able to creatively “story-board” processes of "landscape adaptation", subjecting them to critical interpretation and analysis. This archive of site-specific materials will later be my resource for writing and reflecting on the ‘new Scottish landscape’.
Alex Hale, Alison Fisher, John Hutchinson, Stuart Jeffrey, Sian Jones, Mhairi Maxwell, and John Stewart Watson (2017) "Disrupting the heritage of place: practising counter archaeologies at Dumby, Scotland", World Archaeology (published online June 2017)
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Studentship via the Human Geography Pathway, 2015-2018
- School of Geographical and Earth Sciences Tuition Fees-paid Scholarship for the MRes in Human Geography, 2013-2014
Heritage and Society - 4th Heritage Forum of Central Europe, Krakow, Poland, 1st-2nd June 2017, "Concrete Heritage - The Great Polish Map of Scotland"
- Geography Level 1 Lab Demonstrator, 2015-2016
- Geography Level 1 Tutor, 2016-2017
- 2015 - Present: ESRC funded PhD in Human Geography
- 2013 - 2014: MRes in Human Geography, University of Glasgow
- 2005 - 2009: MA (SocSci) in Geography and Politics, University of Glasgow