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

Advanced Level: for people with dedication to and background in social justice work. Some previous knowledge of Scottish Studies and Gaelic desirable but not necessary.

To be offered in early 2020.

The commonplace story 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 Gaels 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.

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 18th, 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.

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