Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Race and rural Scotland

For a short period following Scottish devolution there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for those involved in anti-racist work - we felt that 'racism' was perhaps finally being taken seriously at a strategic level and minority ethnic groups were perhaps all 'Jock Tamson's Bairns' after all.  A flurry of activities followed, and there have been many positive changes.  However, this initial optimism has been short lived: having 'done race' the policy emphasis has shifted to 'diversity', difference, identities and so on. There appears to have been a deafening silence on 'race'. 
Opening up space for debate on what we mean by ‘race’ and what we might mean by adopting anti-racist perspectives in contemporary Scotland is important to ensure that ‘racism’ is addressed more effectively than it is at the moment.

Rural Scotland
At two presentations last week I talked about the issue of race in Scotland, looking particularly at the experience of minority ethnic groups in rural areas and the construction of identity – of individuals, and of rural areas themselves.

Despite ongoing research and major structural changes in rural areas, the idea that urban spaces are ‘cosmopolitan’, in contrast to rural spaces as somewhat ‘homogenous' in a cultural sense endure. International migration and 'ethnicity’/‘race’ have only very recently been associated with rural places.

"It is difficult to keep your own language when there are not many people to speak to in your own language in the community. I have been to Bangladesh several times, but here there are not many Bangladeshi families about and no young people from the same community, this makes it difficult". Bangladeshi male, rural Scotland

Drawing on research undertaken in Scotland (listed below), we can draw the following conclusions about minority ethnic people’s experience in rural Scotland:

•          Their small numbers, diversity and dispersion, and the limited availability of public spaces (e.g. streets, markets, etc.) shape their experiences of rurality and can lead to feelings of social and cultural isolation.
•          These experiences are reinforced by prevailing policies and attitudes of local communities which can lead to strong pressures to assimilate.
•          Despite these challenges minority ethnic households have been proactive in developing adaptive strategies, making sense of identity across boundaries of place and space and challenging stereotyped notions of the ‘rural idyll’.
•          Identity claims are complex, multifaceted and changing. They are place-based in the sense that they are fixed to the local environment, but they are also determined by relationships with other places and spaces.

"I get a lot of people that ask at school “where are you from?” And, I say from (local town) and they say, “well how come you are a different colour?” And I say like well my mum and dad were from India. But I am from Scotland and have lived here all my life and my parents happened to have come from India. People should step back and think about what they are saying rather than stereotype people all the time."  Indian female, rural Scotland 

The referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 provides an important opportunity to start addressing these issues with a view to defining the kind of Scotland we would like to see - irrespective of the outcome of the referendum.

Dr. Philomena de Lima, is an Associate Director at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships based at Edinburgh University, and is the Director of the UNI Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland, UK

Presentations will be available online:
Rural Policy Summer Institute - Agri-food systems and rural development: tradition, innovation and green governance
The 10th International Comparative Rural Policy Summer Institute will be taking place in Italy this year. This is a great opportunity to learn about a variety of topics related to  rural development  from  multidisciplinary perspectives involving post graduate students and staff from European and North American Universities , as well as  an opportunity to widen your networks. The Institute will also be of interest to policy professionals and practitioners working in the field of rural development
Further reading
Translocations : Migration and Social Change.  An Inter-Disciplinary Open Access E-Journal , ISSN Number : 2009-0420
Bell,M., Llyod,S., and Vatovec,C. (2010) Activating  the Countryside: Rural Power, the Power of the Rural and the Making of Rural Politics, Sociologia Ruralis, Vol 50, Number 3, July 2010, p205-224.
Chakraborti, N., and Garland, J. (Eds.) (2004) Rural Racism: Contemporary Debates and Perspectives.  Devon: Willan Publishing.
de Lima ( 2012) ‘Boundary Crossings: migration, belonging / ‘un-belonging’ in rural Scotland’ in  Hedberg , C. and  & de Carmo, R.  (eds) Translocal ruralism’: Mobility and connectivity in European rural space. New York: Springer

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