The Norwegian Scots: An Anthropological Interpretation of Viking-Scottish Identity in the Orkney Islands

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Examines the role of informal narrative (casual stories exchanged by people in everyday interactions) in the process of creating and maintaining cultural identity in relation to the inhabitants of the Orkney Islands off the Northern Coast of Scotland. These narratives serve as the means by which a community negotiates and forms its self identity and, therefore, provide a suitable window onto this cultural negotiation process. Combining symbolic interpretive theory from anthropology with performance theory from folklore, this analysis illuminates narrative as a cultural tool used to construct various identities, concepts of communality and community. This analysis, being directed towards the Orkney Islands, seeks to understand Orcadian identity in both its own perception of its separateness from mainland Scotland and the way in which it draws heavily on a sense of Scandinavian identity.


“For most of their history . . . the Orkney Islands have been out of the limelight and very remote from central events. The inhabitants have been busy all the while creating an organised, successful and prosperous society – and a very tolerant one. This is what makes Orkney special. I am sure that the readers of Dr. Lange’s book will be eager to discover the islands and the Orcadians for themselves, to share in the society which they read about here, a community of individuals living in a green, fertile and pleasant land surrounded by wild Atlantic seas which pound the cliffs of the red sandstone coasts. A world of contrasts which does indeed provide a magical experience.” – Dr. Barbara E. Crawford, Honorary Reader, School of History, University of St. Andrews

“Dr. Michael Lange’s book explores how the narrative process shapes the construction of cultural identity. With one of Scotland’s ‘small communities’ as his research area, Lange has interviewed 58 residents of the Orkney Islands, documenting and analyzing their informal, everyday narratives to get closer to what ‘Orkney-ness’ means. His theoretical models come from both folklore and anthropology; indeed, he hopes that his study will help ‘bridge the gap’ between the two disciplines.” – Dr. Nancy C. McEntire, Associate Professor, Department of English, Indiana State University

"The usefulness of this text extends beyond its function as an indispensable resource for Scottish studies. It holds up well in comparison with other Scottish island studies, including Sharon Macdonald's broader Reimagining Culture and Tamara Kohn's work on tourists and incomers to the island of Coll, though its focus is quite specific to Orkney. It is also generally informative for scholars of the region (including those who study the rest of Britain and Ireland, and scholars of the Scandinavian nations). Brief references to elements important in other fields (choice of musical instruments as a determinant of local or incomer, for example) add significant interest for ethnomusicologists, folklorists, cultural geographers, and linguists. The maps selected for this volume are helpful in emphasizing the proximity of the islands to Scandinavia (the Faroes to the northwest and Norway to the east). The use of color photographs offer some rather general tourist snapshots of archaeological sites and a few contemporary scenes; while pleasant to look at, they do not particularly contribute to the discussion." - Journal of Folklore Research

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction - Anatomy of the Text

Chapter One – Background: Setting the Scene
Passages through the Islands
A Potted History of Orkney

Chapter Two – Being Important, Being ‘Bigsy’
Stoicism and Being ‘Bigsy’

Chapter Three – Orcadian Accent and Dialect
Language and Authenticity

Chapter Four – Heritage
History and Heritage
A Dissenting Opinion

Chapter Five – Orcadian Identity, Orcadian Voices
Orcadian Identity/Personal Identity
The Construction of Identity
Belonging to Orkney

Chapter Six – Conclusions


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