Windows to the universe: mapping the values of the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park

Marr, Natalie Louise (2024) Windows to the universe: mapping the values of the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis critically explores the cultural values of an International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) through an interdisciplinary research practice composed of site-based ethnography, qualitative research methods and creative enquiry. IDSPs are internationally designated areas where communities have pledged to conserve the natural darkness of the night sky through light pollution abatement programmes and educational outreach. This research focuses on one such place: the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park (GFDSP) in southwest Scotland, which was awarded dark sky status in 2009.

Windows to the universe maps the lifeworlds of the GFDSP and its unique approach to dark skies. I discuss the impact of the designation on the region and its communities, and explore how the GFDSP and its values are variously imagined, experienced and enacted by its stakeholders as conservation model, novel tourist destination and place of residence. From recreational programming and planning to more informal gatherings of local residents and contingent encounters with other nocturnal inhabitants, the project presents a rich ethnography of the social lives and landscapes of the GFDSP. The research presented in this thesis was conducted during 2016–2020, a period leading up to and including the GFDSP's ten-year anniversary in 2019. It engages with stakeholders in a process of critical reflection that casts forward to possible new futures for IDSP practice.

Through an interdisciplinary research practice composed of site-based ethnography, qualitative research methods and arts-based approaches such as long-exposure photography, audio recording and embodied, participative practice, Windows to the universe engages the GFDSP as an evolving assemblage, co-constituted by a diverse range of agents, practices, and experiences. A commitment to non-representational practice further guides this research. Through an aesthetic attention to the affective, situated and relational dimensions of dark sky stewardship, Windows to the universe demonstrates how the values and ‘stakes’ of IDSPs are neither fixed nor stable, but emergent and co-produced through practice and in-place. I affirm IDSPs as important sites of cultural and socioecological encounter with dark skies and dark landscapes, and further, that IDSPs could be more directly engaged as important sites of knowledge production about the night, darkness and light. My approach is realised in the form of the thesis through the deployment of a ‘distributed methodology’ that interrupts and interpolates the linear narrative of the thesis to make visible – and tangible – the generative relationships between researcher, site and practice, and to continually re-situate my discussions in the material, social and ecological context of my research site: the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Borthwick, Dr. David and Lorimer, Professor Hayden
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84210
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2024 15:48
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2024 15:22
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84210

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