3.5 Research recommendations

Future research should:

  1. Consider the global connections of localities and adopt a critical perspective on local distinctiveness and global homogeneity. Research should seek to inform and produce critical accounts of modern Scotland’s local-global relationships. These should question simplistic assertions of the distinctive and bounded nature of Scotland and its different localities and populations. Equally, researchers and practitioners should explore and question the idea that the modern past can be understood in terms of the inexorable rise of global homogeneity. Relationships between localities and the wider world, and between particular lives and wider structures, institutions, circumstances and conditions should become routine matters of comment, investigation and reflection in archaeology.
  2. Adopt a dialectical approach to local-global connections in the modern past. This approach places the emphasis on relationships between the particular and the general and holds that neither can be understood without reference to the other. History emerges from the interaction of a multitude of circumstances, conditions, actions and processes, and each locality, set within a network of connections, communications and relationships is at once similar to the next and different from it.
  3. Be ambitious and seek to contribute significantly to understandings of Scotland’s historical relationships with the wider world. As also recommended in ‘Reformations‘, archaeologists can and should be ambitious in developing archaeological approaches to the modern past. In the context of this chapter, this ambition takes the form of a concern to make a strong contribution to understanding of themes such as colonialism, Empire, diaspora and globalisation. Archaeology’s particular contribution comes from its ability to explore the ways in which particular people and particular places were enmeshed with wider processes, conditions, circumstances and structures, dispersed through space and time. To realise this contribution, research must go beyond the understanding of a particular thing, place or landscape, to understandings of those archaeological objects as part of ensembles of material, social and environmental relationships which extended beyond the locality. Future research can explore these relationships by focusing on material artefacts and raw materials and their distributional networks and connections; mobile populations, and their social and cultural linkages out of, into and within particular localities; skills and practices, and technical or cultural innovations, and the evidence for their transfer into and out of localities; and the implications of wider developments for life in particular locales, developing insight into the emergence of global capitalist markets, of dispersed production chains, of colonies and empires by exposing and analysing apart the practices, networks and relationships that material studies can reveal. The stories told will be positive ones, relating to the formation of valued relationships which span geographic and cultural divides. And they will be problematic ones, confronting us with the people, practices and processes behind present-day social, economic and environmental problems, inequalities, injustices and impacts. Problematic as these histories may be, forgetting them is not a sound strategy for overcoming their persistent and ongoing effects.
  4. Develop new collaborate research practices, leading to better and more powerful understandings of the connections between Scottish localities and their wider worlds. To achieve and promote the contribution outlined above, archaeology should engage with other relevant disciplines to collaborate in the investigation of local-global relationships. Collaborative working with other disciplines will be crucial and, in the context of this chapter, the potential which rises from collaboration with researchers elsewhere in the world should be noted. Scottish research has much to give in terms of insights into the histories of those many other parts of the globe whose histories are, in one way or another, connected to Scotland. Scottish research has much to gain from a deeper understanding of the processes of trade, industry, colonialism, Empire, diaspora and slavery as they developed beyond Scotland’s borders.

In all of the above, the over-arching aim should be to provide a deep perspective on the past and the present character of Scotland, its localities and its populations by elucidating their historical relationships with wider worlds.

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