Timescapes of independence
: temporality, utopia and living the future in Scotland

  • Gabriela Manley

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Based on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork amongst Edinburgh Scottish National Party (SNP) activists, this thesis argues that the future forms a key element of political life and plays a greater role than the past in moving political activists into action. It shows how traditional political anthropological studies reliant on socio-historical analysis provide insufficient insight into emerging political movements. Instead, it proposes a temporal analytical framework that centralises future-oriented temporalities in political anthropological studies. This uncovers the ways in which people are ‘pulled’ rather than ‘pushed’ into action, and in doing so highlights new relationships, affects, and time-maps that would otherwise remain hidden in political action. Drawing from contemporary work of the anthropology of the future (Bryant and Knight 2019a) this thesis analyses the imaginations of the future that drive SNP activists to action, giving shape to Scotland’s potential independent future. It is these imaginations of utopian/dystopian futures that incites SNP activists to believe in, and campaign for, Scottish independence. The future is revealed as a site of intense political contestation that affects and is affected by the present, concrete yet continuously transformed through the everyday affective experiences of activists. In this way, I argue that Scottish independence is best understood as a timescape comprised of both present and future as well as the complex temporal interactions between the two.
Date of Award13 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorDaniel Martyn Knight (Supervisor) & Adam Douglas Evelyn Reed (Supervisor)

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  • Full text embargoed until
  • 7 January 2027

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