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Scotland's Transnational Heritage: Legacies of Empire and Slavery

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Part of the project is offering ways to inspire heritage and museum staff to create new approaches to these histories in Scotland and beyond – who are some examples of those who are already approaching this innovatively to share and inform and how are they doing so? Provides examples of new creative practices that illuminate Scotland’s role in the Transatlantic Slave System Dr Morris is Senior Lecturer at the University and researches the historical and cultural legacies of slavery. He was Co-Investigator of the ‘Transnational Scotland’ network (2019–20), out of which the new book grew.

My ongoing project, Undiscovered Angus, raises awareness of the role played by this part of Scotland in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This chapter will explore the origins of the work and the creative process and influences that have contributed to it. I will note how and when work moved in unforeseen directions and the developments which have arisen as a legacy of the project. For the purposes of coherence, I am writing as if this all happened in a neat, linear fashion. It didn’t. What follows is the result of a messy conglomeration of ideas, influences, material culture, learning and research. Leaps and curves rather than straight lines. Scotland’s Transnational Heritage: Legacies of Empire and Slavery, Edinburgh University Press, 2022. Edited by Emma Bond and Michael Morris. 272 pp. 25 illus. The Transnational Scotland project brought together museum professionals, cultural practitioners and academics in a number of workshops over the course of a year. At our first meeting we were invited to discuss museum objects brought by the curators in attendance; one of these was a cop apron (a heavy-duty protective covering worn by women working in the jute factories) from the collections of Dundee Heritage Trust (Figure 11.1). Workshop participants with specialisms in industrial heritage, literature, museum collections and collecting, digital technology and more, entered into a wide-ranging conversation about the apron, considering its purpose and use, the material from which it was crafted (jute) and how it came to be in the museum’s collections. We talked about the people likely involved in the life of the object – who produced the raw materials, who sewed the apron, who transported it to Dundee (likely from Bengal), who sold it and who bought it. This single object opened up inherently transnational discussions of industrial labour, class, trade routes and empire. The book is co-edited by Dr Michael Morris, from Dundee’s School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, and his colleague Dr Emma Bond, from the University of Oxford. It gathers essays from contributors offering a variety of perspectives on how Scotland’s role in colonialism should be shared and discussed. Scotland’s Transnational Heritage: Legacies of Empire and Slavery conveys an extensive survey of research that seeks to attend to significant and systematic obfuscations of racialised trauma that have lain buried under more palatable narratives. Here the storytellers actively intervene, activate and rupture traditional stories of benevolent coloniality through examining transnational relationships bound by trade in objects, people and routes. Distinctions of focus for many of the researchers respond and question the traditional matrices of categorisations that are structured around colonial ideologies reliant on biased identifications in vast systems of separation, rejection and recognition. Instead, their explorations of anti-colonial politics here are nuanced and suggest a myriad of perspectives to examine issues such as erasure, accessibility, restrictions, permissions, representation, history, collective memory and racialised trauma. By communicating the complexity of the different research projects, Scotland’s Transnational Heritage makes a vital contribution by spotlighting what Scottish heritage collections have chosen to obfuscate and the sleight of hand in the accepted stories once readily told.We see this very much as an ongoing conversation that still has a long road ahead, and we look forward to people engaging with the book and adding their own perspectives, experiences and practices to that conversation. Emma welcomes enquiries from prospective graduate students interested in modern and contemporary Italian literature and culture.

The concept of how we rethink the way Scotland’s history is told, and consider the context of calls to decolonise institutions, is a huge undertaking; how do you approach a project so vast?It’s also important to note that we were not aiming to produce a complete overview of Scottish history from a transnational perspective – such an undertaking would be impossible within the scope of a single volume. What we wanted to put together was a cluster of case studies that would provide a snapshot of ongoing work in the field, with examples of new takes on existing histories (such as the linen trade on the East Coast, or Scottish involvement in the East India Company), and new methods for communicating transnational histories to broad audiences.

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