(University of Edinburgh)
Paper Short Abstract:
‘Orkney is a place that acts through people’. Here lies both a world experiment in marine renewable energy and an experiment in the boundary of a Neolithic World Heritage Site. This is a place that acts through people, not as Orkney but as OrkneyLab, an ethnographic experiment in imagined futures.
Paper long abstract:
'The Orkney imagination is haunted by time' wrote the Orcadian poet, George Mackay Brown. Here, on this archipelago beyond the northern coast of Scotland, brackish lochs and moist green fields weave around Neolithic stone circles, chambered tombs, standing stones. Lighthouses glance out at concrete barriers, gun emplacements, a fleet of scuttled ships, reminders of world wars. Cloud-grey wind turbines on the horizon turn, their own archaeology marked by empty hexagonal platforms and a derelict visitors centre. And soon, beneath the fast churning waves, concrete piles for tidal and wave power generators will be left un-forgotten. The Orkney imagination is haunted by past and future.
'Orkney is a place that acts through people' said a local renewable energy company director. Here, closer to the Arctic Circle than to London, at the edge and on the edge, lies the world's first grid-connected tidal and wave power generation test-site. Here the National Grid has created the UK's first zone for experiments in new power technology. Here are ongoing, contested, heartfelt experiments in the boundary-setting of a World Heritage Site - where the dissolution of nature/culture is altering the landscape to come. Here, almost all 16 inhabited islands have a community develop trust with profit-making subsidiaries for generating wind power - not just for fuel, but for the future survival of their remote populations.
This is a place that acts through people, not as Orkney but as OrkneyLab, an ethnographic experiment in imagined futures.
Imagining past and present landscapes