This week I published a paper in Shima: the International Journal of Research into Island Cultures titled “Career Decision making in Island Communities: applying the concept of the Aquapelago to the Shetland and Orkney Islands”.
In this paper I take Hayward’s concept of the Aquapelago (which I have previously blogged about) and examine how useful it can be as a conceptual frame for thinking about island career pathways.
Hayward originally introduced the term ‘aquapelago’ as a way of redefining the ‘archipelago’, a term he felt had become too land-focused (focusing on the land spaces of an island group, rather than the integrated marine and land environment). His full definition of the aquapelago is:
a social unit existing in a location in which the aquatic spaces between and around a group of islands are utilised and navigated in a manner that is fundamentally interconnected with and essential to the social group’s habitation of land and their senses of identity and belonging.
(Hayward, 2012: 5)
My main argument in the paper is that the concept potentially offers a strong interpretive value when considering island careers for several reasons:
- It refocuses and expands the concept of the island labour market so that it includes employment that may take place on and around sea spaces as well as land spaces.
- Alongside conceptualising the labour market, it also focuses on the experiences of migration off, on and between islands. This allows for an integrated perspective on career pathways which considers migration issues alongside labour market issues.
- It highlights the social and cultural context of island communities, and the role of space in the creation of ‘identity’. This allows for an understanding of the way the social and cultural context of islands may influence career decisions.
I then go on to discuss Orkney and Shetland using the lens of the aquapelago to pick out some themes about island career trajectories.
I would be really interested to know your thoughts on the paper!