Social Psychological Perspectives on Islandness: Identities, Vulnerabilities and Precarities

Kate Matheson, Chris Pawson, Peter Clegg

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Although there are many widely perceived attractions to living on a small island, island life is not without its challenges. The physical aspects of these are well rehearsed. The psychological ones, less so. Drawing on social psychological theories, we analyse the experience of living on small islands, with a focus on two small British islands. Data were collected through ethnographic fieldwork, involving observations and interviews with small island inhabitants. We found a range of factors impacting them psychologically, including several that suggest identity and social identity theories may provide a useful psychological lens for understanding these communities. There were also other psychological features identified that suggest a self-perception of vulnerability. These were reflected in concerns around the precarity of employment, but also evident in islanders’ discourses around health (both physical and mental). These findings echo previous authors’ assertions concerning the existence of an ‘island psychology’ evident in the experiences of island residents, but also contribute to discussions around its origins and mechanisms of influence - which we argue have been hitherto, relatively atheoretical. Importantly, a better understanding of island experience, and the relevant theoretical frameworks, can assist in supporting the wellbeing of islanders and the sustainability of their communities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIsland Studies Journal
Early online date27 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2024


  • islandness
  • social identity
  • community
  • wellbeing
  • small islands


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