SOCIAL IDENTITY, SOCIAL CHANGE AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF SYMBOLIC BOUNDARIES IN A WEST HIGHLAND SETTLEMENT
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In the last thirty years there have been very few systematic observations and analyses of everyday life at a local level. (see Bell and Newby, 1972) As a result our knowledge of local sub-cultures is seriously outdated (E. S. R. C., 1982,13) and we are not maintaining an up to date social history of our own times. However, Bulmer, in an article entitled "The Rejuvenation of Community Studies? " (1985) and Willmott (1986) have both identified "some sign that the study of localities is being revived". (Bulmer, 1985,433) This thesis, a sociological account of contemporary rural life in part of the Scottish Highlands, is a distinctive contribution to that revival. The analysis proceeds on a number of levels and shows several signs of originality. It is more than a simple ethnography. By examining change and social process it goes beyond previous static and structural studies to analyse the implications that indigenous perceptions of identity and 'belonging' have for the nature of social process in a particular locality. Important differences from other localities and locality studies are recognised and social identity, rather than social structure, is the key element in explaining people's involvement in social change and the processes of daily life, and is the central issue around which the thesis develops. Analysing the division that exists between 'locals' and 'incomers' in Fearnbeg involves operating at an advanced level with the interaction of symbols and actions. (While this is not a new challenge, its manifestation with regard to this location is unique). The thesis demonstrates that the most important social division in Fearnbeg society cannot be explained in structural terms alone. The core dicthotomy, and why Fearnbeg people think and behave in the ways they do, can only be understood in terms of cultural and symbolic boundaries.
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