Accepted paper:

Proximate strangers: caring remotely on the west coast of Scotland


Mackenzie Cramblit (Duke University)

Paper short abstract:

In scenic Glenmara, prized by tourists and conservationists, the community sustains itself by managing remoteness and caring for others. What forms of intimacy and belonging are possible here? This paper offers stories of “remote proximity” to show how care emerges through various forms of distance.

Paper long abstract:

The west coast of Scotland is a landscape shaped by starkly unequal patterns of landownership, cycles of rural depopulation, and the desiring gaze of its many visitors: from chroniclers and painters to royalty and middle-class mountaineers. Today, the region has relatively few agricultural or industrial affordances, and continues to be prized for its dramatic scenery, rugged terrain, and perceived remoteness - characteristics that have inspired conservationists to classify nearly one fifth of Scotland's land area as "wild land." Despite associations with an empty, untouched landscape, wild land is often inhabited and actively stewarded by small rural communities that are economically dependent on tourism and outdoor recreation. This paper visits one such community to ask what it takes to build a life in a place where the failures and fantasies of the past continue to shape the economic possibilities of the present. In scenic Glenmara, managing remoteness and caring for others - visitors, animals, and the land - are forms of labor essential to sustaining individual and collective life. Based on 16 months of dissertation fieldwork on the west coast of Scotland, this paper argues that rural life is fundamentally concerned with producing distance and care at multiple scales. What does it mean to care remotely, and what forms of intimacy are made possible in this relation? Inviting us to consider the relationship between intimacy, belonging, and proximity, this paper offers stories of "remote proximity" that show how care in Glenmara is coordinated through distance rather than in spite of it.

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