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2.7 Conclusion: Culloden in its wider context

Moving back out to look at Culloden in its wider context, what can we say that we have learned about the site and its meanings? For international visitors with few or no connections to the battle or to Scotland, it appears to be a site of pilgrimage that is functioning as a place to begin to decode the Scottish identity and the Scottish nation. At home, the major narrative of Culloden for Scots for more than two centuries has been one of tragedy, grief and loss. Once a signifier for the state
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2.6 Culloden visitor survey

In the light of recent reinterpretation of the site, which includes more and different voices to the portrayal of the battlefield, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) undertook a preliminary visitor survey in April 2006 in order to begin to understand how the site figured in the construction of identity for Scots and other visitors (McLean et al., 2007).

When questioned about their motives for visiting the site, many cited educational reasons; however, a large number also came as
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2.5 Scottish identity

Although Bannockburn has figured recently as a mark of ‘Scottishness’ (in part because of the 1995 film Braveheart, which popularised William Wallace and was prominent in nationalist discourse in the years leading to Scottish devolution), Culloden has had a place in the minds and memories of Scots for over two centuries. In that time it has become a signifier of an invented Scotland of mountain scenery, castles and tartan. It is closely tied to the evocative tale of Bonnie Pri
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2.4 Bannockburn and Culloden as heritage sites

Although the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) website offers similar descriptions of each site, there are notable differences in the treatment of each one. On the pages of the website devoted to Bannockburn, the NTS identifies the battle as ‘one of the greatest and most important pitched battles ever fought in the British Isles’ that could ‘rightly be claimed as the most famous battle to be fought and won by the Scots’. Furthermore, Bannockburn, says the NTS, has ‘lo
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2.3 Bannockburn and Culloden

In Scotland, two battlefields, Culloden (1746) and Bannockburn (1314), stand out as iconic spaces, recognised not only by Scots but also by visitors. These two battles are not the most important battles in Scotland's past; however, over time both have gained a particular place in the ‘ remembered’ past of Scotland, and both figure highly in the myth and memory making of Scots at home and abroad.

The historical significance of the Battle of Bothwell Bridge (1679) – the site of
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2.2 Battlefield sites

Battlefields are ‘increasingly being taken up as part of a nation's “official” heritage’ (Carman and Carman, 2006, p. 1) so it is essential to consider their role in the construction of individual and group identity, and in developing a sense of nationhood. As heritage sites, battlefields are a paradox: on the one hand, their qualities as deeply experiential places have long been recognised and are well documented; on the other hand, battlefield sites are often unprepos
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2.1 Overview

Heritage sites have particular and significant roles in our personal and national identity. They operate as fundamental building blocks in the construction of a sense of self and of ‘pastness’. They are key elements that enable individuals to locate themselves within a larger group past and identity. There are any number of sites – from great house to open-air museum to ancient monument, and to any of the many other places that mark aspects of the past – but together they provide
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1 Case studies

The first case study in this unit, ‘Battlefields as heritage sites’ by Mary-Catherine Garden, involves public memories of two significant historical events, the battles of Bannockburn and Culloden. They have helped to forge national consciousness in Scotland but have little visible archaeological evidence to inform the viewer. Intangible heritage, linked to a physical site, presents problems of its own.

The second study examines the old and new towns of Edinburgh, its designati
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Next Steps

After completing this unit you may wish to study another OpenLearn Study Unit or find out more about this topic. Here are some suggestions:

If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the
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4.5 Summary

So far, then, we have seen that family meanings matter for individuals, for social policy and professional practices, and for family studies – both for the ways in which family studies are undertaken, and for the ways in which such academic work impinges upon wider understandings and social processes. Each area of family meanings may thus also shape each of the other areas.

4.4 Family meanings matter in family studies

Researchers and students of family studies need to pay attention to family meanings because it is not possible to stand outside of such meanings. Thus, it is important to be able to reflect upon the ways in which these meanings shape and impinge upon research, and, in the process, come to be reconstructed and reproduced. Such reflection is relevant whether we are considering the interpretations of people's lives undertaken within qualitative research or the categories of households and relat
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4.3 Family meanings matter in social policies and professional practices

In the studies by Walkover and Ribbens we can see individuals caught between a generalised cultural ideal and the messiness and ambivalences of everyday lives. This tension between the generality of ‘family’ as an idealised model, and the fluidity of individual lives in everyday contexts, is also a key difficulty for the development of social policies, and for the procedures and administrative structures of professional practices. This takes us back to Bernardes' question: how is it
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4.2 Family meanings matter to people in their individual lives and relationships

Survey research in the UK, reported by Jacqui Scott (1997), shows the extent to which families matter when people are asked about the key events in their lives over the previous year. While there were some differences by gender and age, the overall pattern was clear: events concerning family lives were considered to be the most significant. And, in the intricacies of personal lives and relationships, family meanings can be complex and powerful.

As an example of how powerful these meanin
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4.1 Family and meanings?

We have considered the difficulties of pinning down family definitions and meanings. We now ask whether it is indeed important to explore and unravel these complexities. Do the varieties of family meanings – or the meaning of ‘family’ itself – matter, or do they just provide a minor intellectual diversion? You may like to pause here for a moment to consider how you would answer this question for yourself. Do you think they matter, and if so, in what ways?

We consider this q
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3.1 Studying families

However, if the concept is so tremendously complex, how then can we study family?

Activity 3

Please read the following piece from Jaber Gubrium and James Holstein (1990), where you are introduced to Borg, the extraterrestrial
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2.4 The slippery language of ‘family’

Most fundamentally, however, we need to understand how language is used, and what ‘work’ it does as we interact with others in our everyday lives. As the sociologist and philosopher, Alfred Schutz (1954) argued, it is important to pay careful attention to the relationship between sociological and everyday concepts, since everyday concepts express the meanings by which social interactions are framed. So how do people themselves understand, encounter, interpret and evoke the very slipp
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2.3 What's so difficult?

Morgan's discussion helps us to think about how we can develop research, policies and interventions around ‘family’ when the key term is so problematic. But we also need to explore further just what is so difficult about this endeavour. There are also some clues to this in Morgan's discussion, in which he points out that:

  • there is a close linkage between everyday and academic language of family

  • there is a whole variety of
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2.2 Responding to the problems

Consequently, some academics have increasingly voiced concerns about whether it is possible to define family satisfactorily at all – or, indeed, whether it serves any useful purpose even to try. The extract you will look at in the following activity is taken from an Introduction to a four-volume collection of readings on Family: Critical Concepts in Sociology. In this Introduction, the author seeks to find a way of defining family that will work across the four volumes of readings on
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2.1 Attempting definitions

A common foundation for any academic discussion – as you may be well aware – is to start by defining the key terms. Not only may this help towards clear thinking and communication, it can also itself constitute a very significant theoretical task, since concepts make up the basic framework for developing knowledge about any subject.


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1.4 Structures of power & inequalities

At the same time, such judgements and responses are not just personal matters: they are also embedded in all sorts of wider and interpersonal processes of power and inequality. These processes shape social policies, professional interventions, and representations in the media, as well as underpinning everyday social interactions in family lives and relationships. If we focus on family meanings, we may not always put issues of power, material inequalities, and moral evaluations at the centre o
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