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The (mis)Representation of Gaelic on Screen

School of Arts and Creative Industries

About the Project



This practice-based PhD investigates the representation of Gaelic culture on screen, and how it can often symbolically represent Scotland as a whole. It will offer an examination of films both of and from the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and how they arguably represent what McAthur (2003) calls a ‘Scottish Discursive Unconscious’; a representational trope which often depicts Scotland in an allegedly regressive and stereotyped manner, in which the Highlands and Islands are a wild, romantic and ‘lost paradise’, out of place with civilisation, modernity and progress. Through their own filmic practice, the PhD candidate will explore the relationship between cinematic tropes of Scottish place and space, and the sense of place and space felt by those living in these so-called remote communities. 

This PhD considers the meaning-making of these contested and idealised spaces, and the extent to which these images might be driven by commercial pressures, production constraints and, also, by the degree of attachment to these spaces felt by those who live in them. The PhD will explore what Brown (1983) has called the ‘Whisky Galore syndrome’ whereby Scottish audiences are allegedly caught in a false-consciousness when it comes to responding to films which, according to McArthur (1982, 2003) and Brown (1983), offer a regressive, clichéd and stereotyped depiction of a fantastic ideal far from the reality of those spaces or modern Scotland. 

The PhD candidate will be given the freedom to develop their own practice-based approach. For example, it might be a series of ethnographic documentary shorts. It might be explored through fiction; or perhaps even remixing archive with oral histories. The PhD will produce a filmed artefact which explores, through practice, the construction, legacy and memorialising of these spaces.



Academic qualifications

A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in Humanities or Social Sciences with a good fundamental knowledge of documentary production and filmmaking.


English language requirement

IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.


Essential attributes:

●      Experience of fundamental research methods in identity theories and documentary practice

●      Competent in conceptualisation of ideas related to theories and practice of ethnography and documentary practice

●      Knowledge of current theories pertaining to representation and mediation

●      Good written and oral communication skills

●      Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project

●      Good time management


Desirable attributes:

Candidates will have strong competencies in filmmaking.


Indicative Bibliography

Cormack, M (2004) Gaelic in the Media. In: Scottish Affairs 46, pp. 23-43.nationalism and broadcasting: the British and Irish examples. In: Nations and Nationalism 6 (3), pp. 383-398.

McLeod, W. (2014) Gaelic in contemporary Scotland: contradictions, challenges and strategies. In: Europa ethnica, pp. 3-12



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