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Transatlantic Scots

Edited by Celeste Ray, foreword by James Hunter, with contributions from Margare

Publication Year: 2005

Examines the impact of the Scottish legacy on North American cultures and heritage.

During the past four decades, growing interest in North Americans' cultural and ancestral ties to Scotland has produced hundreds of new Scottish clan and heritage societies.  Well over 300 Scottish Highland games and gatherings annually take place across the U.S. and Canada. 

Transatlantic Scots
is a multidisciplinary collection that studies the regional organization and varied expressions of the Scottish Heritage movement in the Canadian Maritimes, the Great Lakes, New England, and the American South. From diverse perspectives, authorities in their fields consider the modeling of a Scottish identity that distances heritage celebrants from prevalent visions of whiteness. Considering both hyphenated Scots who celebrate centuries-old transmission of Scottish traditions and those for whom claiming or re-claiming a Scottish identity is recent and voluntary, this book also examines how diaspora themes and Highland imagery repeatedly surface in regional public celebrations and how traditions are continually reinvented through the accumulation of myths. The underlying theoretical message is that ethnicity and heritage survive because of the flexibility of history and tradition. 

This work is a lasting contribution to the study of ethnicity and identity, the renegotiation of history and cultural memory into heritage, and the public performance and creation of tradition.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiii

In a crofting township on the Hebridean island of Skye, I was scheduled some years back to attend a public meeting held on a January evening of the sort that ensures Skye will never rival Florida as a winter destination for vacationers. It was, as it had been since 3:00 p.m., pitch-dark; a gale howled off the nearby ocean; ...

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pp. 1-20

Most Americans have no idea that April 6 is National Tartan Day and would probably have to be told that “tartan” is what they might call plaid. Those who know are avid in their knowledge. Scottish Americans organize tartan balls, bagpipe parades (the ten thousand pipers strutting through New York City in 2002 were hard to miss), ...

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1. Transatlantic Scots and Ethnicity

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pp. 21-47

In the last half century, amid the growing discourse about globalization, the concept of “ethnicity” has supplanted other ways in which we used to describe human differences. Many scholars, and the media, seem to consider this innovative. While concern about ethnic divides on the global scale may be new, ...

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2. Scottish Immigration and Ethnic Organization in the United States

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pp. 48-95

For many hyphenated Scots, their sense of emotional attachment to Scotland is to the Scotland of the past—the Scotland they imagine their ancestors left. The heritage tourism industry allows them to experience this Scotland through selective visitation of clan-specific sites, and the literature of ethnic organizations tends to focus on historical themes ...

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3. A Brief History of Organized Scottishness in Canada

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pp. 96-119

Many of the Highland games in Canada have been established only since World War II, and in the past few decades they have been joined by an increasing number of new Scottish and Celtic heritage groups. The growth of these “Scottish” events and organizations fits closely with the features of Scottish heritage celebration ...

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4. From the Quebec-Hebrideans to “les Écossais-Québécois”: Tracing the Evolution of a Scottish Cultural Identity in Canada’s Eastern Townships

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pp. 120-155

A two-hour drive south of Montreal lie the Eastern Townships, les Cantons de l’ Est, which border the states of Vermont and New Hampshire. All the signs for roads, gas stations, shops, post offices, restaurants, public buildings, and events are in French, the official language of Quebec. ...

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5. Powerful Pathos: The Triumph of Scottishness in Nova Scotia

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pp. 156-179

In the opening scenes of Sylvia Hamilton’s 1993 National Film Board of Canada documentary film Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia, a young man is shown walking past some of the most recognisable locations in Halifax, the province’s capital. He ambles down the Spring Garden Road shopping precinct, ...

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6. You Play It as You Would Sing It: Cape Breton, Scottishness, and the Means of Cultural Production

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pp. 180-197

Cape Breton Island, at the eastern end of Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes, occupies a unique place in the Scottish diaspora. The Gaelic language survives there—barely—on the tongues of people several generations removed from Scotland. The cultural conservatism that allowed the language to survive for more than two centuries ...

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7. The North American

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pp. 198-214

Lord and Lady Malcolm Douglas Hamilton founded the American-Scottish Foundation in 1956 with the broad purpose of building bonds of interests and cooperation, both social and commercial, between the people of Scotland and the United States. An increasing number of Americans of Scottish descent have joined regional Scottish and clan societies, ...

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8. Troubling Times in the Scottish-American Relationship

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pp. 215-231

It is no doubt inevitable that accounts of the roles of hyphenated Americans within the national culture should prefer to emphasise their positive contributions. The stereotypical imaging of Italian Americans as the major contributors to organised crime is understandably anathema to millions of law-abiding Americans of Italian descent. ...

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9. Bravehearts and Patriarchs: Masculinity on the Pedestal in Southern Scottish Heritage Celebration

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pp. 232-262

Two years ago I was invited to speak to an all-male St. Andrew’s Society in Birmingham, Alabama, and chose as my topic “Public Display and the Scottish- American Male.” I was the only woman present throughout the evening, and in a banquet room full of kilted men, I was one of the few people in trousers. ...

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10. Finding Colonsay’s Emigrants and a “Heritage of Place”

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pp. 263-285

Today, literally hundreds of thousands of Americans and Canadians claim Scottish descent, join clan societies, participate in Highland games, and celebrate a Celtic nostalgia. This burgeoning heritage industry creates a flexible past and unites countless imagined kin. Heritage events often renegotiate clan defeats, family evictions, ...

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11. Pilgrims to the Far Country: North American “roots-tourists” in the Scottish Highlands and Islands

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pp. 286-317

I am clearly one of those who are fond of using literary quotations to preface academic essays. Perhaps it has become an overused convention. But especially when one is dealing with an entity as elusive—and arguably as fictive—as an ancestral homeland, there is sometimes a particular aptness, an insight offered, that is hard to resist. ...

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12. Tartan Day in America

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pp. 318-338

When John Witherspoon left Paisley in 1768 to assume the presidency of Princeton University, he reckoned it took him a mere three months to become American. Recently, increasing numbers of Americans have chosen to declare themselves Scots, instantly, without ever having set foot on the Old Sod. ...

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13. Transatlantic Scots, Their Interlocutors, and the Scottish Discursive Unconscious

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pp. 339-356

The first quotation is from the deracinated Canadian writer John Prebble’s Culloden (1961); the second from indigenous Scots journalist Brian Pendreigh’s 1992 newspaper account of the three-hundredth anniversary of the massacre of Glencoe; the third is from a 1935 essay by the Scots novelist Neil Munro; ...


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pp. 357-360


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pp. 361-365

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384203
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817352400

Page Count: 381
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • North America -- Ethnic relations.
  • Scots -- North America -- History.
  • Scots -- North America -- Ethnic identity.
  • North America -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • Regionalism -- North America.
  • Transnationalism.
  • Scotland -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • Scots -- North America -- Social life and customs.
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