As a Nova Scotia commercial fisher in the early 1990s, Raymond A. Rogers experienced the collapse of Canada’s East Coast fishery first-hand. During that difficult, painful, and confusing time, Rogers noticed a lone gravestone across the road from his home in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia. It was the gravestone of Donald McDonald, a native of the Isles of Lewis in what was known as North Britain, who “departed his life” in 1881.The encounter with McDonald’s gravestone inspired Rogers to explore the parallel processes of dispossession and how local communities are decimated by the imposition of new ways of life.
In Rough and Plenty: A Memorial, Rogers compares the experience of dispossession suffered by nineteenth-century Scottish crofters who, like McDonald, were expelled from their ancestral lands during the Highland Clearances, with his own personal experience of dispossession when the fishing industry in Nova Scotia succumbed to the forces of capitalism in the 1990s. The book serves a twofold goal: to memorialize the loss of local ways of life in the name of economic progress and to convey the experience of dislocation through first-hand narratives and perspectives, recent and historical. Blending historical research with personal narrative, the author proposes the act of remembrance as a form of advocacy for the local communities decimated by the power of progress. Further, the comparison between the process of dispossession suffered by nineteenth-century Scottish crofters and the author’s own experience as a Nova Scotia fishers shows how colonizing narratives of progress exploit resources and marginalize local communities and its inhabitants.