Course: Radicalizing the Roots: Decolonizing Scottish Heritage and Deconstructing Whiteness through Gaelic Lenses

Advanced Level: for people with a passion for social justice and a desire to understand the history and legacy of empire and coloniality in a Scottish Highland context. It will be vital for participants to have a basic knowledge of Scottish Gaelic culture and history already so they can contextualize and integrate the issues covered in this course (see Caveats below). This foundational background is covered in the Reclaiming the Roots course.

Register now for the next session to be held on Thursdays from 13th May through 17th June 2021 at 8:00 – 9:30 PM EST.

The commonplace explanation of oppression and injustice in North American popular discourse is that “white people” have always used racism against people of color to secure privilege and to exert forms of domination and exploitation, but these modern categories and experiences hide a history that is more complex and nuanced than is commonly assumed.

The British imperial project and its legacy of injustice did not begin in 1619 with settlement in America: the exercise of English empire-building began in the medieval British Isles with the colonization and disenfranchisement of Celtic peoples. The beliefs, structures, and practices developed in this colonial enterprise were transferred to North America and developed further into the forms of pathological power that established a racial-ethnic hegemony that absorbed many immigrant groups. The subjugation and integration of Scottish Gaeldom into an expanding anglo-conformist empire groomed them for a form of “success” as imperial servants but at the cost of their own political and cultural sovereignty. The experience of dispossession and disenfranchisement has left a multi-generational legacy of trauma and substance abuse among many families of Gaelic origin.

This course will enable participants to engage in questions of how coloniality impacted Scottish Gaeldom and how Highlanders in turn were co-opted into colonial endeavors and acquired power and privilege through anglo-conformity. This in turn will gives us crucial insight into the historical evolution and psycho-dynamics of whiteness and oppression, help deconstruct the illusion of a static, monolithic whiteness, and will offer insights into breaking the cycles of trauma, dehumanization and violence.

Join this course under the direction of Dr. Michael Newton, one of the leading scholars in application of issues of coloniality, race, and ethnic identity to Scottish Gaelic Studies.

The coursepack contains unique primary sources and commentary created specifically for this course not available elsewhere.

Details about how the courses are designed and how they work are on this webpage.

What We’ll Do Together

  • Understand the meaning of empire, coloniality, racialism, and privilege as generalized concepts and phenomena.
  • Review the summary history of the development and application of coloniality to Celtic communities within the British Isles from the 12th century to the 19th, especially within a Scottish context
  • Engage with the history of the subjugation of the Scottish Highlands between the Statutes of Iona (1609) and the Highland Clearances, especially from the perspective of Gaels themselves and as articulated by them in their own primary sources.
  • Explore the complex intersections between the Gaelic world and the British Empire – militarism, settler-colonialism, racism, etc. – the varied reactions Gaels had to these phenomena and the outcomes for them, especially in terms of cultural allegiances and psycho-dynamics.
  • Assess how mainstream Highland heritage today displays or conceals issues of power and representation so as to enable or defuse these radical readings of the past and potential futures.

Course Text

PDF Coursepack, emailed to you after you register for the course.

Related Resources To Inspire You


The history of imperialism / coloniality is complex, multilayered and multifaceted, and this course is not intended to be a replacement for a university-level course on the subject. With a session length of six weeks and reading assignments that are not excessively long and that avoid dense academic jargon, we can only lay a basic foundation for understanding coloniality in general and apply it to a limited number of topics in a Scottish Gaelic context. The course has been designed most specifically to address land dispossession (the Clearances), coloniality in formal educational and religious institutions, involvement in the British military, racism / whiteness, and the problematic nature of mainstream representations of Scottish (Highland) heritage. There are other critical methods that the course does not address in depth, such as eco-criticism and feminist perspectives. Participants are encouraged to share their perspectives with others on the course whenever they can. This course is an entirely unique offering: there are no university courses available anywhere on coloniality as applicable to understanding Scottish Gaelic history.