Ludwig-Uhland-Institut für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft

Constructing Irish Identities in German-speaking Europe: Individuals – Initiatives – Practices (Working Title)

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Reinhard Johler

Building on research for the Master’s thesis and using a partially autoethnographic approach, this dissertation project revolves around the topic of migrant associations and networks in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, using the example of those formed around Irish cultural organizations – the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Irish language groups and the Irish Business Network.
In the context of the British exit from the European Union and the increasing nationalization of crises debates, issues of identity construction, difference and its ever-implicit hierarchies (Abu-Lughod, 1991), European self-understandings, belonging and becomings (Biehl/Locke, 2010) require increased anthropological scrutiny. Despite being relatively small in their numbers, what can the individuals involved in the ‘Irish community’ in German-speaking Europe, their initiatives and practices tell us about how current political actualities seep into and exercise influence over the day-to-day lives of persons living in societies they were not born into?
Prior exposure to the research object has revealed its intricate unity as well as its convoluted plurality with issues emerging relating to mobility, imagination as social practice (Appadurai 1996) and practices in the construction of identity.  As this project is in its infancy, the questions being put to the field remain broad and open-ended: The research queries how inclusive the groups for Irish culture, language and Gaelic sports are as exchange-platforms for migrants from all over the world, at whom offers of membership and association are aimed, and whether the rigid “nets” (Joyce, 1916) of national-cultural boundaries are drawn tighter or dissolved by their efforts. Do these groups act purely as an experience resource and a contact point for migrants? Or are their members constructing identities to distinguish themselves from other individuals; if so, from whom and to what end? What role do Irish cultural policies for the ‘Irish abroad’ play in the constructions of identity overseas? What does it mean to the individuals to be a “community apart”? (O’Dubhghaill 2020)
The compiling of a thick ethnographic snapshot in time of the current attitudes and actions of individuals involved in these groupings should lay bare the entangled contours of imagined and constructed Irishness and Europeanness, describing the social worlds through which the ‘Irish’ in non-Anglophone environments move and closely observing their moving through it.
Curriculum Vitae: Born 1992 in Dublin, Ireland. B.A. (2016) reading Germanic Studies and History at Trinity College, the University of Dublin. M.A. (2019) Empirische Kulturwissenschaft/Historical and Cultural Anthropology at the LUI. Master’s Thesis: Ciorcail Comhrá (irisch-gälische Konversationskreise) in Deutschland: Irische Selbstbilder im Ausland. Worked during studies at the LUI as undergraduate assistant and translator to Professors Johler, Scheer and Thiemeyer. Currently part-time advisor to the Department of Higher Education Statistics, Statistisches Landesamt Baden-Württemberg.