Regional and national cultures in north-eastern Scotland : tradition, language and practice in the constitution of folk cultures
This thesis examines the processes of the formation and re-formation of folk cultures in north-eastern Scotland. Focusing on the area surrounding Aberdeen, I am interested in the historical and contemporary relationships between Highland and north-eastern versions of Scottishness. During the 1990's, a burgeoning north-eastern regional and cultural self-awareness, centred on the "Doric" dialect, was evidenced in the founding of the Elphinstone Research Institute at the University of Aberdeen, and in the founding of an annual Doric Festival. This institutionalisation has taken place in a situation in which Scottish national traditions have remained popular in the region and the Scottish nation has experienced a greater degree of political autonomy. The continued reproduction of both Scottishness and north-easternness is resultant of the ways in which culture and language have been mobilised, politicised and legitimised through the erection and operation of institutional frameworks. The role of expert and enthusiast knowledges in the propagation of cultural trends is analysed here through an exploration of the spectacularisation and banalisation of tradition. In particular, I unpack the tensions that claims for authenticity create with regard to the ballad and literary traditions of the north-east, and to the Highland Games and Gatherings of the same region. Exploring joint actions and knowledges, I demonstrate the efficacy of performative language and embodied practice in communicating, stabilising and normalising rhetorical ideas concerning Scottish cultures. As the contingent factors that give language and practice variable meanings become fixed through citation, the formation of dominant readings is enabled. The normalisation of spectacular events is crucial in the communication of authenticity and the establishment and recreation of national or regional identities. As perceived authenticity substitutes for objectivity in the popular imagination, everyday apprehensions of Scottishness and north- easternness are both made more durable and infused with a strong legitimacy by their very performance and naming.