Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
EH14 4AS, Edinburgh
"The Future of Heritage in Scotland:
Assessing the official narratives of history in Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles in Scotland"
Known for its turbulent past and rich cultural diversity, Scotland has lately become a trending destination. Each year, the number of tourists visiting key historical sites across Scotland keep reaching new records.
The recent political events in both Scotland and in the United Kingdom triggered a series of problems regarding their understanding of identity, diversity and belonging. Heritage became a valuable tool for Scotland to answer those problems and help define their political stance as a nation. In the early 2000s, the devolution gave newly legislative and political power to Scotland. In this new political landscape the country, in its endeavor to redefine their political stance, are also rediscovering themselves through the exploration of history. Once independent, now part of a bigger political entity, heritage and in particular official forms of narration represent an important form of legitimization for the nation.
In this peculiar environment, my research explores the established official forms of interpretation present at key historical sites in Scotland. In connection with Heriot-Watt Intercultural Research Centre (IRC) objectives and values, such as interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research on cultural heritage, my research project focuses on potential of cultural heritage in constructing identities and contributing to social change. While the country is facing major political changes, and given the key role heritage narration is playing in the definition of national understanding, I am assessing whether or not those official narratives are still meeting the needs of present and future Scotland.
As a French established in Scotland for several, I have come across a number of similarities regarding both French and Scottish cultures. Charles De Gaulle said in 1942 that the Auld Alliance between France and Scotland represented the oldest one in the world. In the effort to explore this past narrative and shared heritage, it became evident that those 700 years of relationship shaped not only our culture, but our economy and political understanding. We can find evidence of this past relationship through language, education, law and also architecture, art, cuisine plus much more. Yet this evident past heritage seems to be missing from the official narrative of Scotland. In this process of assessing three of the most visited historical sites in Scotland, Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, I am working to understand why such iconic elements of Scotland’s heritage have been ‘omitted’ from the official discourse. By re-questioning the authorized heritage discourse (Smith, 2006), I am attempting to offer a counter form of heritage narration, one that might challenge the official discourse in Scotland. To do so, I am reviewing the choices of interpretations made on site and trying to explore the process of meaning making but also the creation of collective and cultural memory. Since the interpretation work is a social construction, context plays a key role in the production of meaning and the formation of a certain legitimization and truth. As such, I am re-questioning past interpretive work still present on site and assess whether or not they are still fitting today’s needs for Scotland.
Supervisors: Dr. Katerina Strani,
Dr. Mairead Nic Craith