Traditionalising Empire: Imperial Commodities in Gaelic Popular Culture
Join Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI on Wednesday 26th October 2016, 5.00pm-6.00pm for a seminar about how imperial commodities found a place within the domestic popular culture of the people of the Highlands from the seventeenth century onwards, at first as exotic, fashionable curiosities, then increasingly as household necessities.
Venue: Ross House, North Highland College, Dornoch or online (via Video Conference)
The past two decades have seen the rise of a series of ‘new imperial’ histories, lively and often contentious reconsiderations and reinterpretations of various imperial and colonial pasts worldwide. At the same time a host of studies has been published, at home and abroad, tracing, clarifying, and reassessing the complex and controversial roles played by Scots throughout the British Empire. Historians have also begun to examine in greater detail the direct and indirect impacts of empire on the ‘home country’. Particularly relevant here is the recent exciting Landscapes and Lifescapes project investigating the influence of plantation slavery in the Caribbean on the people and the landscape of the Scottish Highlands.
In this paper I shall examine a different but related facet of empire: how imperial commodities found a place within the domestic popular culture of the people of the Highlands from the seventeenth century onwards, at first as exotic, fashionable curiosities, then increasingly as household necessities. I shall discuss how the people of the Gàidhealtachd perceived and made use of some of these commodities, assimilating them into their daily life, into social norms, customs, practices, and beliefs – and local material culture. Sometimes they adapted already existing indigenous practices, at other times they imported practices strikingly similar to those elsewhere in the country. My focus will be not just on consumption per se, but on how commodities could be a source of pleasure and anxiety, of creativity and meaning, to consumers in the Gàidhealtachd just as in the rest of Britain.
Educated at the Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Celtic Dept and the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart is course leader of the MSc in Material Culture and Gàidhealtachd History at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, as well as teaching undergraduate courses in research skills and Gaelic popular culture, customs and beliefs. His work draws upon the history, literature, material culture, ethnology, folklore, and popular culture of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd from the seventeenth century onwards, subjects for which he is often interviewed on radio and television.