Island spaces: selling nature, sustaining culture? cultural economies and the mediated narratives of remote rural Scotland enterprise

Kathryn Burnett*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentationpeer-review


    This paper offers a comment on island enterprise and related media texts that have specifically flagged island spaces as sites of environmental and ecological interest, value and difference. The paper invites further debate around how material and cultural goods interplay with island environments and ecologies. Examples will illustrate how products are variously represented through image and written textual account, and analysis is offered that suggests how we might reflect further on the socio-political complicities of alterity, gentrification, and the neoliberal commodification of ‘tradition’ and ‘heritage’ in what are commonly understood as ‘good’ and ‘sustainable’ products. These products that range from biscuits to seaweed, from artworks to energy and are emblematic of a historical trend of island commodification but one more nuanced today as nationally emblematic of ‘good practice’ and ‘success’.
    What these texts offer us is a highly mediated account of the nature and practice of production and consumption in remote rural and island space. These digital media texts – created for the internet and digital platform world of global marketing - are designed and crafted to offer audiences and consumers a series of narratives of production and consumption that signify ideas of nature, ecology and indeed ‘wild’.
    My interest here is not to suggest rather crudely that such representations are inherently ‘wrong’ - although we might all recognise examples of rather clumsy and whimsical advertising of the remote rural both past and present - but rather it is the very ‘careful’ and highly nuanced current framing of these products as exercises in ‘informed awareness’ and ‘quality’ that we find some merit in digging down a little deeper to examine what meanings and values are being attributed to island spaces, - as ecologies, as communities, and indeed as spaces of remote rural enterprise and practice in general, - by such texts.
    The capacity for media capital to make good on alterity –‘otherness’ and difference - is well recognised and yet it is the often in the most marginal spaces and notions of peripheral practice that the power of capital – as profit, control and cultural form – are most normalised that is ‘naturalised’. An examination of the positioning of ‘nature’ and ecology as variously both a reification and a transformative agent in terms of the discourse of ‘islandness’ is offered here asking how and why might we contest or indeed collaborate locally, regionally and nationally with such narratives both from within these island spaces, and beyond?
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2015
    EventEcoCultures: Glasgow's Festival for Environmental Policy, Research and Practice - Glasgow, United Kingdom
    Duration: 17 Oct 201517 Oct 2015


    ConferenceEcoCultures: Glasgow's Festival for Environmental Policy, Research and Practice
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • island studies
    • place
    • Economic and Ecology
    • Media Representation
    • Scotland
    • creative industries
    • Hebrides
    • alterity
    • media


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