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Title: Representations of Scottish identity and devolution : the relationship between the arts, cultural confidence and political autonomy from the 1980s
Author: Gunn, Linda
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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The motivation for this thesis was the simultaneous increase of 'national feeling' and flourishing of the arts in Scotland from the 1980's. From this period - increasing through the 1990's towards the Referendum on Devolution in 1997 - the Scottish cultural community began to relate identity, art and politics, and frequent use was made of the word 'confidence'. As this implied a previous lack of it, the view that there was a sense of Scottish cultural inferiority is a thread running through this study, which examines beliefs about the relationship between cultural 'confidence' and support for political autonomy by focussing on the role of cultural representations of Scottish identity. The study concentrates on ideas about Scottish identity among a number of people from the Scottish cultural sphere - several of whom can be described as key figures in terms of the representation of Scottish identity - on how these have been influenced by existing representations, and how they have been understood and legitimated. Data was gathered by interviewing individuals in the arts and broadcasting in Scotland, attending debates and conferences, exhibitions and plays, and by examining key 'texts' in the field, from analyses of Scotland and Scottish identity, to plays and novels. Theories and analyses other than those specifically on Scotland (for example, on nationalism) were also reviewed because of their availability to influence ideas on the Scottish situation; therefore, while background data is presented in a 'Thematic review' chapter which is similar to a traditional literature review, the literature review is actually a process continued throughout the thesis. The thesis focussed on how 'history' has been used by people in Scottish cultural life to legitimate beliefs about cultural 'differences' between the Scots and English and a 'power imbalance' between the two nations, and that the representation of Scottish identity had 'suffered' as a result of the England's dominance. A few Scottish artists have represented this in terms of colonisation, but it was found that most interviewees saw it as symptomatic of being the small neighbour of a powerful culture. A strong link was perceived as existing between class and negative representations of Scottish culture, and most interviewees, particularly younger ones, represented Britishness as having been culturally English, and English cultural dominance (and hence, any sense of Scottish cultural inferiority) as having been influenced and perpetuated by metropolitanism and elitism. The period of Conservative governance from 1979 were found to be crucial in terms of the development of such 'ideas' about Scottishness; 'Thatcherism', Conservatism, and the south-east of England being represented as culturally - and, to an extent, morally - 'alien' to Scottish society and 'values'. It is noted that a number of analyses (and stereotypes) from prior to the 1990's, which had represented Scottish identity as flawed, were now interpreted as 'positives' or advantages. Overall, Scottish culture was perceived as 'more' democratic, egalitarian, and socialist than 'English' culture, and the majority of interviewees felt that Scottish artists and other cultural interpreters had a role to play in redressing 'misrepresentations', and in further breaking down elitism. It was found that the re-presentation of Scottish cultural identity from the early 1980's acted with and upon a 'new' Scottish confidence provoked by Thatcherism, which can ultimately be argued to have influenced the 'Yes/Yes' vote in the Devolution Referendum of 1997.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available