The Morality of Landscape: Community, Capital and the Commons in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site

Angela McClanahan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


This article sketches out a particular case in which the ‘values’ of a World Heritage Site (WHS) in Scotland became entangled in competing discourses relating to political and moral economies in the context of a case around cultural and historic ‘sustainability’. In a number of public meetings, media statements and during an official Scottish Government inquiry in 2008, different social and cultural groups debated whether to approve or deny a planning application to construct a wind farm that would provide a substantial output of renewable energy, but which would be sited within view of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney (HONO) WHS, inscribed by UNESCO in 1999. Utilizing ethnographic approaches drawn from material culture studies in anthropology and archaeology, I examine the ways in which social actors on both ‘sides’ of the conflict articulated arguments about its value as a community ‘commons’ and the ways in which it could provide forms of social capital for Orkney communities, both in relation to its ‘aesthetic’ properties as an authentic cultural landscape, and as a potential site for the symbolic and actual production of a form of sustainable energy.

Exploring these threads, and the way they are negotiated and used to inform social action in the present, adds to our understanding of how the management of World Heritage Sites play an active role in using the past to help shape moral codes and visions of ‘the future’ within contemporary societies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationActes du Colloque
Subtitle of host publicationSites Du Patrimoine et Tourisme
Place of PublicationQuebec City
PublisherPresses de l'Universite Laval
ISBN (Print)9782763794389
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • World Heritage; Tourism; The Commons; Community; Capitalism.


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