National Identity Focus of Trip to Scotland
Students in Britt Cartrite’s Spring Term class studied the phenomenon of Scottish nationalism while traveling throughout the country.
In order to better understand how Scots see themselves, the Alma College class visited 11 different areas of Scotland, including the Borders region, the Western Isles and the Central belt.
“We intentionally go to different regions we feel reflect the diversity of Scottish identity,” says Cartrite. “We also went to the Shetland Islands, where people don’t think of themselves as Scottish at all.”
Alma students visit the Highlands.
Oscoda sophomore Megan Lamrock fulfilled a long-time wish when the class visited the Highlands region. Luckily, the area didn’t disappoint.
“If I live to be 100 years old, I’ll never forget the sheer beauty of the Highlands,” she says. “There’s something almost magical about it.”
Throughout their travels, students had the opportunity to discuss identity with locals, meet with politicians and hike. They also read influential novels in the places the plots were set, something Lamrock says she especially enjoyed.
“Reading the novels in this way really made everything come alive,” she says. “It helped us picture life for the Scots in different times.”
Island of Skye
In addition, the class visited a number of battle sites and museums. Along the way, Cartrite, an associate professor of political science, made sure to emphasize each stop’s purpose.
“Modern museums are built as an experience, so I push students to be aware of the kinds of messages that they’re taking in,” he says. “You have to step back, unpack it and think about it.”
Regardless of the day or activity, it was important to Cartrite, whose research background is in nationalism and ethnic politics, that students problematize identity.
“Even though we take American identity for granted, it’s something we all were taught,” he says. “It’s something we have been convinced is real, so we start believe it’s real. The same thing happens in Scotland, but it’s much more contested.”
Once students are back on American soil, Cartrite says students are able to appreciate not only how much they saw and did, but also how much diversity they experienced. For Lamrock, this certainly is true.
“The class opened my eyes to how different the people of one nation can be,” says Lamrock. “The stereotypical ‘Scotland’ with bagpipes and kilts is hard to find. The Scottish identity is made of all different smaller identities from every corner of the country.”
Because alumni love connecting with students, Cartrite plans to create a shorter version of the class for both alumni and students during Spring Term 2012.
Posted: Thu, August 11th, 2011 at 9:38AM