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Title: Migration and social change in remote rural areas : a Scottish Highland case study
Author: MacLean, Catherine
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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The thesis draws on research carried out in a small village on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, anonymised here as Bailemor in the parish of Beulach. Whilst there have been considerable numbers of community studies carried out in the Highlands and Islands, the thesis is unusual in its methodological approach, combining a long fieldwork period of participant observation, taped interviews, and the use of data such as the Census Small Area Statistics and Register of Sasines. Furthermore, the thesis deals with issues previously often examined only by means of survey data, principally the process of migration and especially 'rural renaissance'. It is argued that quantitative data alone does not examine these processes adequately, often creating a two dimensional 'snapshot in time'. Instead, the thesis draws upon rich fieldwork data to show how participant observation can add to understanding, and through fieldnotes and qualitative interviews presents the complexities and subtleties of migration in and out of the parish. The thesis consists of a literature review, methodology chapter and descriptive chapter which form the context for the four main data chapters. The central focus of migration provides empirical evidence of demographic and historical change, which is used to analyse the experience of 'rural renaissance' in one small community, leading to the argument that such communities have a critical 'viability threshold'. Examining migration also gives scope for theoretical discussion of 'belonging' and social interaction. Migration decisions over time and social change in the parish are looked at through family history interviews. Contentious issues of belonging and localness are analysed in depth, linked to the gossip, humour and conflict of everyday life. One crofting township is examined in detail as a microcosm of all issues involved. The thesis makes a significant contribution to the field both in its methodological discussion, and in the research findings and associated analysis. As an in-depth micro-level study, it helps to fill an identified gap in the literature. Key findings include that incomer/local statuses are not a dichotomy, nor even simply the more subtle 'continuum' of recent writing. Rather, they are mobilised and deployed selectively, in specific contexts. The thesis also highlights the significance of personal relationships, both in terms of 'belonging' and as the crucial factor underpinning many migration decisions. This aspect of social change and migration has been neglected so far in the literature. Countering the common-sense perception of Highland in-migration, and earlier research into similar communities, the thesis finds that Bailemor is relatively open to newcomers, and that despite the erosion of cross-cutting ties of mutual interdependence, practices such as gossip and nicknaming have survived in social interaction. While the thesis is a community study insofar as it is grounded in a substantial period of fieldwork in one area, it is a study of sociological issues in a community, rather than simply a study of a particular place. It is argued in the conclusion that the future of community studies lies in this direction, and there is much potential for further research building on the work of the current thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available