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Islands in an ocean of change : an examination of cultural change in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, through the lives and experiences of its people Morrison, Donald Anthony

Abstract

Culture is a dynamic entity that changes and adapts over time. However, as our world grows increasingly interconnected, indigenous cultures throughout the world are being assimilated into a 'global' culture, and losing many of the attributes that keep them unique. For instance, the traditional culture of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland is being squeezed between the need for increased development and modernization, and the desire to remain distinct and separate from the cultures of Britain and the world beyond. The Outer Hebrides is an archipelago lying off the northwest coast of Scotland, and is the last stronghold of Gaelic cultural heritage. This thesis examines the cultural changes that have taken place in the Outer Hebrides, as a result of development and modernization throughout the past century. It undertakes this investigation through the eyes of those who have witnessed the changes firsthand, by using research methods that have not yet become common in the planning profession; namely, the use of story and life histories to gather data for further analysis. A quantitative questionnaire was also employed to determine which elements of the traditional culture Hebrideans consider most important, and to provide balance to the qualitative research data. The data generated through the Hebridean field research reveals how the traditional culture of the islands has changed over the decades, and also points to ways that planners can aid development while fostering cultural preservation at the same time. Recommendations for innovative strategies are then made based on the collected data. Ultimately, this thesis reveals that the use of story and life histories represents valid methodology for planning research, while the collected stories from the elderly informants represent an act of cultural preservation on its own.

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