Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research Interests

The diversity of practices and principles by which traditional and indigenous communities have governed their lands and natural resources, with a particular focus on the Gàidhealtachd of Scotland; How the land based practices and principles of these communities relate to their broader cultural understandings and worldviews; The consequences of difference between the governing practices and principles of traditional and indigenous communities, and the practices, principles and policies of the national and international institutions within which these marginalised groups seek to continue their distinct modes of governance.



Iain MacKinnon’s commitment to the cultural practices and belief systems of the Gàidhealtachd (Highlands and Islands) of Scotland has led him to study and contribute to political discussion on the politics of land and knowledge in the area. In addition to his academic publications he has contributed to a range of media on aspects of the area’s history and culture – particularly in relation to land governance and indigenous knowledge.

He was co-author of a critical micro-study of crofting land tenure in the Highlands and Islands. This study helped to shape subsequent Scottish Government legislation on the topic. More recently he was co-author of Plantation Slavery and Land Ownership in the West Highlands and Islands: Legacies and Lessons which, for the first time, laid bare the massive extent of land ownership and control exercised in parts of the north of Scotland by beneficiaries of the Atlantic enslavement economy. The report was widely covered in the media and was the subject of a debate in the Scottish Parliament. His previous work has also included project management, political advocacy, media relations and editing as well as helping to organise study-tours on community development in the west Highlands and Islands of Scotland for Government planners from the Papua Province, Indonesia, and for land activists from Amazonia.

A key aspect of current work being prepared for publication is an analysis of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd as a site of historical colonisation. He believes that understanding the area’s longstanding and underlying imperial power relations - and concomitant attitudes to the area's native population - may be vital to properly understand and negotiate political contestation in the Gàidhealtachd today.

(Profile photo credit: Jordan Young, for the School of Plural Futures, ATLAS Arts 2021)

Area of Expertise:


Land Tenure and Cultural Diversity, Colonisation, Indigenous Studies

Vision Statement


I belong to a crofting family and to the Gaelic culture indigenous to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Our traditional world inspires my work, and the critical condition of our language and many cultural practices today gives that work its urgency. My approach is rooted in the transformative power of our song, music and indigenous knowledge. I would like my research to contribute to new self-understanding among peoples and to the reconstitution and renewal of traditional worlds.



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