Representing Traveller Identity from within: Negotiating Diversity and Belonging in Scotland

By Sara Reith.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Scottish Travellers, an indigenous and traditionally nomadic people, have been credited with the guardianship of one of the richest oral cultures in Europe. Through creative and educative lore, skilled narrative, and musicianship, Traveller traditions transmit a vivid experiential knowledge of localised history, places, and people, expressing a distinct ethnicity that is deeply immersed in the Scottish context. The largely misrepresentative voice of dominant ideology, mirrored in European discourse, has made hostility and institutional racism a daily reality, leading many Travellers to conceal their identity from outsiders. The creation of a cultural climate in which diversity within ethnic and indigenous groups is viewed as an asset or opportunity for growth, begins with the enablement of understanding at a community level. The Travellers Project works in conjunction with members of the Travelling community to challenge negative misrepresentations. Through direct fieldwork, recording, and performance, the project aims to raise public awareness of the unique contribution Travellers make to Scottish culture and society. This paper will discuss the role of prominent Traveller tradition bearers, in communicating the relevance and value of their cultural inheritance to the settled community. This reflects the powerful potential of folkloric contexts to create transformative spaces through which divisive boundaries between ‘self’ and ‘other’ may be renegotiated to enrich and expand our worldview.

Keywords: Scottish Travellers, Gypsy/Travellers, Oral Traditions, Identity, Belonging, Ethnicity, Worldview, Indigenous Peoples, Creativity

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp.99-110. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 566.862KB).

Sara Reith

PhD Research Student, The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

I am a PhD student at the Elphinstone Institute of Aberdeen University where I previously completed an MLitt in Folklore and Ethnology. My current research looks at the contextualisation and construction of Traveller identity and worldview through traditional music, song, narrative, and performance, and is part of the Heritage Lottery funded project, ‘The Oral and Cultural Traditions of Scottish Travellers’. My studies include the conducting of new fieldwork and the use of archival resources, and my previous work within the Traveller's Project has involved the processing and transcription of archival field recordings of Scottish Travelling people. I play traditional music and perform regularly at Scottish music festivals, in local bands, and as a member of Celtic Reggae band Paddyrasta. I am also involved as a tutor in various Aberdeen music and arts projects.

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