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Position, commission and production: a self-reflexive investigation into the generation of ethnographic knowledge through documentary production for BBC Alba

MacLean, Diane


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Dr Diane Maclean
Dean of the School of Arts and Creative Industries


This thesis takes as its object of study issues emerging from the synthesis of documentary practice and theoretical discourse. Its context is formed by the production of four published works commissioned and broadcast by the BBC in 2011/2012. These comprise: a drama-documentary, an observational documentary and two radio programmes.
The programmes gathered archival and recorded memories and oral histories from Scarp, a small, now abandoned, island off the coast of Harris in the Outer Hebrides whose oral history and memories are in danger of being lost forever.
The thesis argues for the acknowledgement of the 'situatedness' of the producer by exploring background, cultulral positioning and professional training, specifically within the context of Gaelic culture and broadcasting. The thesis makes the specific claim that the published works and the research appendices, in combination with the critical essay, make an important contribution not only to our understanding and ethnographic knowledge of island cultures on the west coast of Scotland, but also to our understanding of the processes of media production and respresentation as critically reflected upon by an academic practitioner.
Through a cross-disciplinary engagement with debates within documentary, ethnography and oral history, this thesis will also demonstrate that narrative, subjectivity, generic delivery, commissioning constraints and intervention need not exclude television programmes, and the research produced to create them, from containing valuable ethnographic information that (under academic analysis) makes a contribution to our understanding of culture. A self-reflexive methodology reveals the extent to which the producer intervenes in, changes, and brings their own subjective perspective to, any work of ethnographic data gathering or oral history collection, and how this research is constrained by the commissioner.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 15, 2015
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Media; ethnographic;history;
Public URL
Contract Date Jul 15, 2015
Award Date 2014-06


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