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The writing on the wall : (accessing) children's meanings of land in the Outer Hebrides at the beginning of the 21st century

By Fionagh Thomson


In 1990 the United Nations Convention of the rights of the child recognised children as\ud a minority group, social actors with a right to be heard. In parallel, interest in children's\ud voices increased within academia. This research adds to current work within children's\ud geographies, through an exploratory case study in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, with a\ud group of participants (6 to 12 years old). Based on a series of workshops, participants\ud were invited to become artists-in-residence on the theme of land within their everyday\ud lives.\ud This thesis set two substantive questions: what are participants' meanings of land in the\ud Outer Hebrides and how do these meanings relate to current theories around human's\ud relationship with land? Findings showed that meanings of land were not uniform though\ud meanings embodied movement through daily lives, creating a sense of self and\ud 'belonging' Participants were not controlled excessively by adult narratives of strangerdanger\ud but by the physical topography, which mirrored many inhabitants' experiences.\ud Participant's meanings of land are understood through two theories of human's\ud relationship with land. First, Ingold's phenomenological concept of landscape as\ud dwelling, recognising the influence of past generations (walking the land tending sheep),\ud and more 'modem' activities, (watching soap operas at home). Second, Massey's concept\ud of progressive sense of place, recognising the influence of wider social forces and\ud explains an everyday land inhabited by a Bengal tiger.\ud This research has a number of original contributions. First, this research increases\ud knowledge on an under researched part of the Sconish Islands around inhabitants\ud everyday lives and land. Second, a third, and methodological, research question explored\ud the debate: is doing research with children different from doing research with adults?\ud Here I argue that pre-labelling any participants by social identities contradicts the\ud bonom-up approach of participatory methodologies, as identities are multiple and are\ud something we 'do' not 'have'. This final issues aims to address the narrow readership\ud within children's geographies and persuade all researchers to no longer view the 'child' as\ud 'other' to the adult and outside mainstream social research

Year: 2008
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