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Scottish Independence and Shetland Sovereignty: An Investigation into Micro-Nationalism and the Logic of the Nation-State

  • Author(s): Thomson, Alexander Malcolm
  • Advisor(s): Kroskrity, Paul V
  • Throop, C. Jason
  • et al.
Abstract

In this thesis, I demonstrate that the logic of the nation-state is predicated upon a fragile and frangible autology, which is constantly being de-stabilized by an auto-de-construction that moves across fractal levels. Using ethnographic data collected during the summer of 2014, I show that the same line of argumentation pursued by proponents of Scottish Independence was used by some segments of Shetland society (e.g. the Referendum on the Islands [ROTI] Petition and Stuart Hill’s “Yes Shetland” Campaign) to argue for Shetland Independence. I further show that these minoritarian movements drew upon locally-hegemonic mytho-historical narratives and elements of the romantic nationalist ideology (e.g. ethno-tellurism, linguistic nationalism, etc) to bolster their claims that Shetlanders were a “nation” deserving of a state structure. These mytho-historical narratives were also present among the larger population, which is to say individuals not pursuing an autonomist agenda for Shetland (e.g. individuals seeking re-unification with Norway and some formally-affiliated members of the Better Together crowd). Finally, I consider the possibility that the Referendum on the Islands (ROTI) Movement was an ironic ploy by the Better Together campaign, which – precisely by virtue of its irony – exposes an always already existing fault within the logic of the nation-state (viz. a politico-economically interested autological auto-de-construction). While the ROTI petition as a politico-theatrical reduction ad absurdum may have been intended to guarantee the continued existence of the United Kingdom (qua Nation State), this gesture constitutes a gambit inasmuch as it requires the (temporary) suspension of the warrants of the nation-state in general (i.e. its metanarrative). Thus, for a moment, we can see that the logic of the nation-state rests upon something outside itself – that its center is decentered.

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