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Why Is Cornwall So Poor? Narrative, Perception and Identity
Willett, Joanie Mary Anne
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Cornwall is a peripheral rural location in the South West of the UK, and has experienced almost continual socio-economic decline for more than a century. It has a nationalist heritage and is a popular tourist resort. It is also one of the poorest parts of the UK. Academic work has addressed poverty in Cornwall, but has failed to adequately answer why various development programmes have not improved the economy. Part of the reason for this may be that traditional approaches to regional development utilise identity politics as a development tool, and yet lack sufficient attention to the lived experience of local residents. This work takes the opposite approach, seeking to address this omission by using narratives of identity to understand why Cornwall is still so poor. Supporting data uses a qualitative, grounded methodology, using interviews to explore how decision makers and members of the public construct Cornwall. The research finds that policy is based on a perception of the region which lacks a foundation in lived reality for local residents, and which carries a number of implications. The area and its inhabitants are constructed as being a lifestyle choice, impacting on economic activity and the kinds of investment attracted, which has a negative impact on long term economic growth. The solution proposed is that successful development needs to use a politics of identity that incorporates the realities of life in Cornwall, rather than emphasising an idealised perception. This can be done through adopting a more ‘evolutionary’ method, encouraging economic development to come to accept and work with what already exists, rather than trying to create anew.
PhD in Politics