Senses of place and the struggle for the Cairngorms
My thesis is based on fieldwork in the Badenoch and Strathspey area of the Scottish Highlands, on the northern side of the Cairngorms. Its starting premise, inspired by the work of Tim Ingold, is that people’s attitudes and beliefs about their environment and environmental issues arise out of their practical engagement with that environment. By focusing on the activities that people are engaged with, I identify three approaches to the environment: livelihood, recreation and conservation. The first part of the thesis explores in detail how these ‘senses of place’ arise out of, and are manifested in people’s practice. The next section uses case studies to show how the three approaches, with their contrasting perceptions and perspectives, often come into conflict. I first examine disputes between canoeists and anglers and debates between conservationists and sporting estates over red deer and native tree regeneration. I then go on to explore the conflicts over the building of the funicular railway and planning powers in the National Park, in which the main line of conflict is drawn between local livelihood interests against outside conservation and recreation interests. The final part of the thesis will go on to argue that the approaches are not fixed, bounded groups as might first appear. I use my data to demonstrate that there is in fact much common ground as well as much overlap in people’s identity. The main conclusion of the thesis is that what appears to be irreconcilable conflicts between people with different senses of place are actually conflicts that emerge because of issues to do with power and social, political and economic inequality. I offer some ideas, based on my fieldwork data, about how these conflicts can be overcome for the benefit of both people and the environment.