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Accepted Paper:

Made by islanders: social provisioning, shared repertoires and 'island life' in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland  
Joana Nascimento (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

Described as remote, economically fragile and threatened by depopulation, the Outer Hebrides have long required islanders to approach these challenges resourcefully. This paper considers how 'provisioning' can illuminate the collective and inclusive possibilities of local strategies and outlooks.

Paper long abstract:

The Outer Hebrides of Scotland are often described as remote, economically fragile and threatened by depopulation. For long, islanders' commitment to remain or return to the archipelago has required cultivating resourceful strategies to address the challenges of 'island life'. In this context, the concept of provisioning proved helpful to examine the social complexity and nuance involved in these processes.

As a perspective, 'social provisioning' emphasises 'the analysis of economic activities as interdependent social processes', revealing how 'people organise themselves collectively to get a living' (Power 2012:6). As Narotzky has pointed out, provisioning can also inform how we 'understand social differentiation, the construction of particular meanings and identities, and the reproduction of the social and economic system as a whole' (2012:77).

This perspective on economic life helped frame the strategies, approaches and outlooks I encountered during 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Outer Hebrides, examining the local significance of the Harris Tweed industry. Trademark-protected since 1910 and covered by an Act of Parliament, this textile can only be produced by islanders in the Outer Hebrides, but is exported to over 50 countries. In this context, 'islander' emerged as a more inclusive category than expected, encompassing 'locals', 'returners' and 'incomers' as they drew on shared local repertoires to address the challenges of island life. In this paper I discuss some of those dynamics, drawing on 'provisioning' to highlight how islanders not only aimed to sustain individual households, but also strived to protect 'the common good' and to make collective futures possible.

Panel P070
Making ends meet: Exploring social provisioning beyond migrant/non-migrant binaries
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -