Group identity in social gatherings : traditions and community on the Iona Peninsula, Cape Breton

MacDonald, Martha Jane (1986) Group identity in social gatherings : traditions and community on the Iona Peninsula, Cape Breton. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This thesis proposes the idea that social gatherings in a rural community of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, are a forum for displaying and reinforcing a group identity based on collective community values. Both present and past social gatherings on the Iona peninsula are discussed, using the contrasts between them to point out how these values and their manifestations have or have not changed. -- The methodology for the study consisted largely of tape-recorded interviews and participant observation, carried out on the peninsula over a period of two months. Other sources of information included written material by folklorists and others on social gatherings of different types, on Gaelic language use and on such concepts as reciprocity, leadership and communication. After an introduction and a chapter describing the communities studied, three chapters are demoted to groups of gatherings divided according to function, with ethnographic descriptions of present-day gatherings included in each. -- Where entertainment options are limited due to a diminishing population and geographical distance from major centres, people will construct their own entertainment and their own methods of gathering for what purposes they find. The ways in which they set up these gatherings and the form they take depend on resources available, motives for gathering and gathering traditions already in place. The thesis posits that people of this area, because of their common heritage of Hebridean, Roman Catholic traditions, and because of the complete lack of commercial entertainment options, tend to maintain some of the forms or aspects of gathering which their ancestors imported from Scotland in the early nineteenth century. These traditions have been retained in a largely practical, unselfconscious way because they continue to fill a need felt by the community, and are the natural way of gathering because they have been in place for several generations. -- At the same time a number of changes have come about in the patterns of gathering in order to fulfill the needs of the present day. Other changes, such as the decline in use of the Gaelic language, the rapidly shrinking population and the increase in the average age of the residents have brought about further adaptations in the gathering process. These consist of differences in dress, food use, narratives told, and even in the objectives of the group in holding the gathering. -- I examine here the ideas of reciprocity, with food as the medium of exchange, the concept of hidden leadership in an ideally egalitarian community, and communication within social gatherings. All of these relate to the idea of the group identity which gives this community its distinctive character. -- In conclusion, I consider the fate of this area and its group identity, when the population is diminishing to such an extent that the end of these particular traditions seems inevitable.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5483
Item ID: 5483
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 203-215.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: July 1986
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Social groups; Community life; Recreation--Social aspects--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island; Leisure--Social aspects--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island; Cape Breton Island (N.S.)--Social life and customs

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