These themes are designed to aid reflection on research in the Modern Panel’s field. The themes do not enshrine established interests, nor do they narrowly delineate the evidence that might be considered in developing an understanding of modern Scotland. They are designed to promote dialogue between disciplines and existing traditions of research and to encourage the development of new interests and questions and collaborations.
Whilst much thought has gone into the choice and definition of the themes, they could legitimately have been framed otherwise. The themes are also not intended to be insulated from each other and work on a particular topic is likely to feed into the understanding of more than one theme. The themes are not intended to circumscribe the perspectives that researchers might take on an understanding of modern Scotland. They do not require consensus in the interpretation of the modern world; rather, they provide reference points and a structure for dialogue between individuals and groups with common interests but different points of view. Indeed, divergence and difference are to be encouraged: perhaps the most productive discussions are those between people of differing outlook, where implicit assumptions are exposed to critical evaluation and researchers are challenged to understand, if not necessarily to adopt, alternative perspectives.
In developing each of the themes, a critical stance has been adopted, challenging and questioning narratives such as ‘modern society is consumer society, globalised and materialistic’, ‘modern people think and act as individuals’, ‘modern relationships with the environment are exploitative and destructive’. Each of these can be said of the modern world, but problems arise when such narratives are treated uncritically and attempts are made to reduce modern life (varied, fluid, emergent, contingent, contested) to a simple essence. Case studies are included in each theme to ground the general discussion and to exemplify the potential scope, contribution to understanding and relevance of the archaeology of Scotland’s modern past.