Ruth Brennan on probing the cultural depths of nature conservation conflict in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland
These images and captions are a selection of responses from local people living on the islands of Barra and Vatersay, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, which form part of a PhD research project (2009-2014). The project aims to gain insights into the roots of a conflict over the creation of two marine protected areas off the islands through exploring the local cultural and historical context of the affected community.
My initial conversations (in 2011) with people on Barra and Vatersay suggested that the islanders have a strong and unique relationship with the sea, which is part of a bigger 'conservation' picture that includes both humans and the natural environment as an intertwined system, working together. However, this unique relationship is not easily seen or understood by outsiders.
To understand better the islanders' connections to the sea and what 'conservation’ means for them, I asked research participants to take photographs of the Barra and Vatersay they would like their grandchildren to enjoy when they grow up. I hoped to make more visible the unique relationship between the islanders and their marine environment and to help create an understanding of 'conservation' that better reflects how humans and nature function together.
A fuller selection of the images from Barra and Vatersay can be viewed in an ebook at www.sams.ac.uk/ruth-brennan/what-lies-beneath-e-book
An illustrated discussion of the conflict on Barra in the context of different ways of knowing the marine environment can be found at www.sams.ac.uk/ruth-brennan/belonging-to-the-sea
I am grateful to the National Trust for Scotland for providing funding support for my PhD research. I also acknowledge the support of the MASTS pooling initiative (The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland) in the completion of this study. MASTS is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions.
Click on a thumbnail to view the gallery full size.
Ruth Brennan works as a social ecologist at SAMS (Scottish Association for Marine Science). Her research focuses on the coupled social-ecological aspects of marine policy and art-science collaborations. She practised as a solicitor for several years before moving into the world of marine policy via a Masters degree in Coastal and Ocean Policy at Plymouth University.
Further information on Ruth’s research can be found at www.sams.ac.uk/ruth-brennan.