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Title: The difference of 'being' in the early modern world : a relational-material approach to life in Scotland in the period of the witch trials
Author: McCabe Allan, Morgana Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 2849
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis investigates how ways of being in different ontologies emerge from material and embodied practice. This general concern is explored through the particular case study of Scotland in the period of the witch trials (the 16th and 17th centuries C.E.). The field of early modern Scottish witchcraft studies has been active and dynamic over the past 15 years but its prioritisation of what people said over what they did leaves a clear gap for a situated and relational approach focusing upon materiality. Such an approach requires a move away from the Cartesian dichotomies of modern ontology to recognise past beliefs as real to those who experienced them, coconstitutive of embodiment and of the material worlds people inhabited. In theory, method and practice, this demands a different way of exploring past worlds to avoid flattening strange data. To this end, the study incorporates narratives and ‘disruptions’ – unique engagements with Contemporary Art which facilitate understanding by enabling the temporary suspension of disbelief. The methodology is iterative, tacking between material and written sources in order to better understand the heterogeneous assemblages of early modern (counter-) witchcraft. Previously separate areas of discourse are (re-)constituted into alternative ontic categories of newly-parallel materials. New interpretations of things, places, bodies and personhoods emerge, raising questions about early modern experiences of the world. Three thematic chapters explore different sets of collaborative agencies as they entwine into new things, co-fabricating a very different world. Moving between witch trial accounts, healing wells, infant burial grounds, animals, discipline artefacts and charms, the boundaries of all prove highly permeable. People, cloth and place bleed into one another through contact; trees and water emerge as powerful agents of magical-place-making; and people and animals meet to become single, hybrid-persons spread over two bodies. Life and death consistently emerge as protracted processes with the capacity to overlap and occur simultaneously in problematic ways. The research presented in this thesis establishes a new way of looking at the nature of Being as experienced by early modern Scots. This provides a foundation for further studies, which can draw in other materials not explored here such as communion wares and metal charms. Comparison with other early modern Western societies may also prove fruitful. Furthermore, the methodology may be suitable for application to other interdisciplinary projects incorporating historical and material evidence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General) ; DA Great Britain