Episode 8

The Look of the Scots Gaelic Language: Stories About Race & Kinship | S3 Ep8

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Our Story

Three stories from Turtle Island - from Antigonish in Nova Scotia, Alaska, and the Cape Fear River in North Carolina  - speak to expectations of race, ethnicity, and skin color, particularly when it comes to Scottish identity and the Gaelic language. 

Our Guest

Dr Michael Newton earned a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh in 1998 and was an Assistant Professor in the Celtic Studies department of St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. He has written a multitude of books and articles about Gaelic culture and history and is a leading authority on Scottish Gaelic heritage in North America. In 2018, he was recognized with the International award at the annual Scottish Gaelic awards. His most recent book is called Into the Fairy Hill: Classic Folktales of the Scottish Highlands.

Read Michael's scholarly articles.

Join Michael's online learning community, the Hidden Glen Folk School of Scottish Highland Heritage.

Hear Michael's story from season 1 of KnotWork Storytelling, The Man Without a Story.

Our Conversation

  • Michael brings together these three stories together because of the way the language and storytelling tradition bring communities together and the way a person of color who speaks the language comes as a surprise
  • The Gaelic language spread with the Scottish immigrants and the language was resilient enough to include new populations who didn’t look like our expectation of “what a Scottish person looks like.”
  • The imperial nature of the Anglophone world places English as the language of dominance and control. 
  • Encounters between different cultures: who is the insider and who is the outsider? Questions of identity, between the Tuatha Dé Dannan and the Fomorians, between the Norse pagans and the nominally Christian Gaels
  • We’re watching people use Scottish identity as a shorthand for white identity, but Gaelic community has always been diverse. The Gaelic tradition is about the language and the culture, not about genetics or surnames. 
  • The history of Scottish people being a second class citizen in an Anglo-dominated society - they removed “Mac” from their name, stopped sharing the language with their children. 
  • Differences in Scottish and Irish immigration experiences 
  • How the academy was created to spread whiteness, Anglo-Saxonness, colonialism and ignores the cultural expression of all others, particularly of the Celtic peoples
  • You are a meaningful member of the community when you participate and contribute, not just because of your name and ancestry
  • What does heritage mean? What has been submerged? What stories do we wish to tell? What are the underlying psychic wounds related to history and identity?

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About the Podcast

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KnotWork Storytelling
Myths Retold, from Ireland and Beyond

About your host

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Marisa Goudy

Marisa Goudy is a story healer, a writing coach, and a word witch. Her book, The Sovereignty Knot: A Woman’s Way to Freedom, Power, Love, and Magic, was released in 2020.
Marisa nurtures writers and storytellers in her long-running online writing community, the Sovereign Writers’ Knot.
On this show, Marisa combines her passion for story with her love of Irish literature, culture, and folklore and her fascination with the Celtic world. She has a particular love of stories of heroines, goddess, and women whose tales were forgotten by history.