Intimate distances: geographies of gender and emotion in Shetland
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This thesis examines the emotional well-being of women in the Shetland Isles, Scotland. The research seeks to articulate the gendered spatialities of emotion by intertwining post-structural feminist theories of gender; psychoanalytic insights into issues of subjectivity, identity, and relationality; and geographical understandings of social places and spaces to appraise the emotional narratives of a selection of Shetland women. These narratives were gathered during two fieldwork periods in Shetland and are augmented by ethnographic fieldnotes. While some research has explored how women experience rural spaces, and more recently, geographies of mental health have been a subject for study, the particular dimensions of women's emotional health experiences in isolated geographies has yet to be fully understood or documented. This thesis explores this gap. offering an enhanced understanding of the spatial and gendered practices of emotional well-being in a non-urban context.Chapter One introduces the rationale for focusing on how women who live remotely define, develop and use strategies for maintaining emotional well-being. Women were interviewed for two connected reasons: (1) the feminist political value in attending to the experiences of women and a too easy slide into equality rhetoric otherwise, and (2) women's visceral, complex and non-innocent relationship with emotions as the expected bearers of emotional burdens (in theory, if not in practice). Their expressions of, attitudes towards, and techniques for managing emotions can be read for insights into processes of gender and subjectivity. The remote island setting offered an alternative to predominantly urban-centred readings of modern culture.Chapter Two reviews relevant bodies of literature to consider social and spatial distances and proximities; post-structural analyses of gender and subjectivity; and emergent approaches to the spatialities of emotion. Emotions are understood as 'taking place' through complex interactions between inner emotional worlds, cultural norms, and social and geographical contexts. Chapter Three details the research design of the thesis and reflects on dilemmas of feminist fieldwork such as issues of power and naming. This methodological chapter also considers some of the complications of feeling your way through emotions research, drawing from fieldnote excerpts. The remaining three substantive chapters offer close readings of the interview narratives interwoven with theoretical concerns.Chapter Four examines the intersection of place, gender, and emotion in Shetland. The placing and gendering of the particular Shetland context is discussed via interview accounts and participant observation at an annual festival. Chapter Five examines accounts of emotional well-being, including how people narrate the emotional self in a process of placing the self, and also touching on therapeutic tactics for eliciting self narratives. Chapter Six identifies and deconstructs spatial discourses of intimacy and demonstrates how such discourses are bound up in senses of emotional well-being.The thesis concludes by suggesting that this detailed examination of women's emotional well-being in Shetland productively opens up the spatialities of emotion. This, in turn, extends understandings of the interplay between gender relations, gender identities, and the spatial patterning of non-urban life in western societies.