EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(IW004)

Re-imagining Irish ethnography

Location John Hume Lecture Theatre 4
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 14:30

Convenors

Andrew Finlay (Trinity College, Dublin) email
Helena Wulff (Stockholm University) email
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Long Abstract

When we think of ethnography we probably think of descriptions of a people rooted in a place, and/or interpretation of the meanings they attach to themselves, their actions and predicaments; i.e. ethnography involves studying an ethnoi held to comprise human being. Much ethnography is still recognizably like this, but anthropologists have long worried about reifying ethnos. Because of its conflicted and fractured history these worries present themselves sharply in the Irish context.

The 2010 Annual Conference of the Anthropological Association of Ireland (AAI) encouraged participants to imagine ethnography beyond ethnos. This workshop seeks to develop the discussion begun at the AAI conference by eliciting papers which defend the ethnographic tradition in Ireland and/or analyze representations of Ireland and Irishness in the existing canon of ethnographic writing, literature and visual art. In this way we hope to create a dialogue out of which may yet emerge new ways of imagining Irish ethnography."

Chair: Andrew Finlay and Helena Wulff
Discussant: Virginia Dominguez

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Re-imagining Ireland: ethnographic fictions by contemporary writers

Author: Helena Wulff (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

In ethnographic fictions, contemporary writers in Ireland reflect on social and cultural life in a relatively new nation. Building on the strong literary tradition which contributed to Ireland´s movement towards political independence, these writers often dwell on Irish tropes such as the history, the postcolonial situation, the economic boom in late 20th century, the current downturn, as well as emigration and exile. The new immigration to Ireland is appearing in literary accounts. Ethnographic fictions are not mere mirrors of what the writers see around them, but complex commentary, often social satire. The stories can be political, romantic, witty, typically with a dark streak, yet ending on a sudden positive note. Drawing on a study of Irish writers and their work, this paper explores recurrent tropes in ethnographic fictions while acknowledging diversity produced by generations, genders, religions, ethnicities. Just like creative nonfiction, ethnographic fiction reports on facts in a fictionalized form.

Intercultural memoirs and Irish anthropology

Author: Máiréad Nic Craith (Heriot-Watt University)  email
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Long Abstract

This contribution looks at representations of Ireland and Irishness in inter-cultural memoirs. It examines the composite picture of a changing Irish society that emerges in these works. It argues that when approached as social documents rather than literary texts, memoirs and stories provide valuable insights for anthropologists into the whole notion of Irishness, both in a historical and a contemporary context. With reference to Eriksen (1994: 191) who suggested that 'novels may be read as ethnographic descriptions; that is, the information conveyed may be taken more or less at its face value, as a kind of ethnographic documentation', this paper calls for a 'literary turn' in Irish anthropology and suggests that Irish anthropologists could gain significant insights from approaching creative writing as an important mechanism for understanding culture.

Toposophy: towards an Irish ethnology

Author: Ullrich Kockel (Heriot-Watt University)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper explores whether and how an Irish Ethnology might make a useful contribution to the study of contemporary issues, raising the question of what kind of ethnology - in terms of research practice and its theoretical foundations - would be the most appropriate and useful in this context, and what is needed to achieve this. A brief sketch of the current position and problems of the field is followed by an examination of three interconnected types of ethnology, which leads to reflections on processes of understanding and interdisciplinarity, and finally to consideration of what ethnologists can and should do, why, and how they might go about it. I shall argue that Ethnology can be seen as a scientific approach to the Local that promotes a comparative understanding of the "own" and the "other" (and hence of encounters and conflicts) both among humans and between human and non-human subjects, viewed as part of a "local household" (oikomene). It is also an applied regional science with a specific local and/or regional focus, relational and system-oriented, with a primarily political and socio-economic purpose; as such it concentrates on communities, and on issues such as migration and hybridization, and uses multi-sited methods. Finally, it can be regarded as an approach to cultural philosophy that brings issues of origin, perspective and the goal (or telos) into view, emphasizing self-reflexive analysis, lived experience, and responsibilities that arise from one's chosen position. In practice, ethnology is a cyclical process of understanding that moves through these different versions in the course of actual research. In conclusion, I consider what such an ethnology might look like in the Irish context.

The Ethnographical Survey of Ireland and imperial science: an invisible genealogy in the history of anthropology & Irish ethnography

Author: Edward McDonald (Ethnosciences)  email
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Long Abstract

The Ethnographical Survey of Ireland is largely forgotten in anthropology, if remembered seen as preliminary to the main business of AC Haddon's anthropological career and a mere adjunct to the Ethnographic Survey of the United Kingdom. When it is discussed, typically only the work of Haddon and Browne on Aran is mentioned and, at times, such as in Castle's (2001) work Modernism and the Celtic Revival, it is repositioned in an imaginary history of anthropology. Other components of the survey undertaken by Browne are largely overlooked though at the time Browne's research was cited as exemplary ethnography.

This paper argues, on the one hand, that the Ethnographical Survey of Ireland is part of an invisible genealogy in the development of modern professional anthropology, with Browne an excluded ancestor and, on the other, that the survey was part of an Imperial Science project that ultimately failed to take root in Ireland.

New Drinkers, New Places

Author: Johan Nilsson (Linköping University)  email
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Long Abstract

The perceived crisis of women's drinking is part of the gendered modes of drinking prevalent in Irish society. Irish drinking is often imagined as public and traditionally dominated by male drinkers, but it has come to be challenged by new scenarios and drinkers. This presentation outlines how Irish drinking is organised by categorisations of gender and drinking situation, with men's public drinking representing the whole. My fieldwork with wine enthusiasts in Dublin came to revolve around categorisation of drinking, with several unexpected statements about the safety of women, where it is seemly for a man to drink wine instead of a pint of beer, etc. Wine is associated with women and threatens women's health as much as men are restricted to drinking it only in certain situations. The drink offers an alternative to traditional Irish drinking that demarchates insider and outsider-drinkers differently from the inclusion and exclusion of the pub.

Neither here nor there: the diasporic nation of Irelantis

Author: Jennifer Way (University of North Texas)  email
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Long Abstract

The thirty-five collages that make up Irelantis, 1994-1999, consist of images that Dublin-based artist Sean Hillen selected mainly from two sources of tourist postcards - those featuring Ireland that British photographer John Hinde made during the mid twentieth century, and in a lesser amount, postcards showing noteworthy cultural and natural sites of Europe and North America, respectively. Hillen combined them to depict Ireland as a series of small landscape and seascape scenes that remind us of a tradition of visually representing the nation as an island to signify its Irishness and extol its topography as an archive of its histories and mythologies. I explore the significance of Hillen's collage series figuring Ireland as a Diasporic agent and as a place constructed for and seen by outsiders, namely, migrants and former émigrés, during the years following the Republic of Ireland Act of 1949, and the Celtic Tiger period of the mid to late 1990s.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.