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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

H Martin Wobst

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Krause

Third Advisor

Robert Paynter

Fourth Advisor

Amy Gazin-Schwartz

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology


This study seeks to understand the removal of people from the land as symptomatic of two narratives based in the colonial and capital enterprises, clearing and Improvement. Spatially, this relationship has been constructed around the distances between two players: the beneficiaries of the colonial enterprise, namely core, western and European based countries, and the subaltern or peripheral populations usually located at great distances from the sites of inception. These peripheral spaces were the locations of immense change in terms of both material culture and historical memories. Here, these moments are explored within the small, defined space of Galloway, Scotland, which provides a case study foregrounding and locating the manifestations of both clearing and improvement as they move across the landscape as ideological and material products of capitalism and colonialism. Albeit subtle and punctuated, clearing was carried out across Scotland in an effort to remove pre-modern producers from the landscape during the implementation of “agricultural improvements” in the wake of developing capitalism. Against this backdrop of developing capitalism in Great Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Scottish landowners embraced “Improvement,” a matrix of economic, material, and social changes directed at the landscape and towards achieving a productive, civilized world through the moral betterment of the population. These changes were manifest in the commodification of land, domination of particular groups through the disciplining of space, and a distinct reordering of peoples’ relationships with each other and with things (Foucault 1995; Johnson 1993, 1996). Landowners successfully implemented a range of strategies as a means of achieving “Improvement” ideals, including clearing. This dissertation readdresses the Lowland experience as both improvement and clearance by uncovering evidence that clearances of the tenant and cottar classes took place in Galloway during the 18th and 19th centuries; that these clearances were made invisible whilst they were happening through the guise of Improvement as Scotland developed into a modern nation within a global context; and that evidence of clearing is still “oozing out” of the landscape, if put into perspective.