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Who's Your Paddy?

Racial Expectations and the Struggle for Irish American Identity

Jennifer Nugent Duffy

Publication Year: 2013

After all the green beer has been poured and the ubiquitous shamrocks fade away, what does it mean to be Irish American besides St. Patrick’s Day? Who’s Your Paddy traces the evolution of “Irish” as a race-based identity in the U.S. from the 19th century to the present day. Exploring how the Irish have been and continue to be socialized around race, Jennifer Nugent Duffy argues that Irish identity must be understood within the context of generational tensions between different waves of Irish immigrants as well as the Irish community’s interaction with other racial minorities.
Using historic and ethnographic research, Duffy sifts through the many racial, class, and gendered dimensions of Irish-American identity by examining three distinct Irish cohorts in Greater New York:  assimilated descendants of nineteenth-century immigrants; “white flighters” who immigrated to postwar America and fled places like the Bronx for white suburbs like Yonkers in the 1960s and 1970s; and the newer, largely undocumented migrants who began to arrive in the 1990s. What results is a portrait of Irishness as a dynamic, complex force in the history of American racial consciousness, pertinent not only to contemporary immigration debates but also to the larger questions of what it means to belong, what it means to be American.
Jennifer Nugent Duffy is Associate Professor of History at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut.  

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-viii

I wish to thank many people who helped me develop this project over several years. First and foremost, I thank Adam Green, whose unwavering encouragement and patience gave me the confidence to embark on this journey. Lisa Duggan, Faye Ginsburg, Arlene Davila, and Andrew...

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Introduction: Who’s Your Paddy? Irish Immigrant Generations in Greater New York

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pp. 1-14

“I was never racist until I came to this country,” I was told by John, an Irish immigrant newcomer to Yonkers, New York, in the early spring of 1996. This nineteen-square-mile city of 200,000, which shares southern and eastern borders with the Bronx in New York City, gained national...

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1. From City of Hills to City of Vision: The History of Yonkers, New York

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pp. 15-48

In 1969, after two weeks of public hearings, a New York State Commission of Investigation discovered a private carting deal with Mafia leaders that cost the city of Yonkers approximately $1 million a year. When asked for his reaction, the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce president...

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2. Good Paddies and Bad Paddies: The Evolution of Irishness as a Race-Based Tradition in the United States

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pp. 49-88

In 1863, the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day celebration transpired in the city of Yonkers. After attending mass at St. Mary’s, “handsomely dressed” participants marched through the streets and avenues of Getty Square in the city’s southwest quadrant. Every residence “proudly” displayed American...

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3. Bar Wars: Irish Bar Politics in Neoliberal Ireland and Neoliberal Yonkers

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pp. 89-122

During the early 1990s, the southeast section of McLean Avenue witnessed the arrival of several stand-alone drinking establishments that were patronized largely by working-class, undocumented Irish immigrant newcomers. This shift marked the arrival of bad Paddies in the...

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4. They’re Just Like Us: Good Paddies and Everyday Irish Racial Expectations

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pp. 123-166

“They’re were just like us,” I am told by Frank, a thirty-four-year-old assimilated Irish ethnic, as he describes the people he met during the first of many visits to Ireland. “It was as if my family never left Ireland.” He also added, “I felt like I picked up where they left off one hundred...

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5. Bad Paddies Talk Back

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pp. 167-200

This chapter highlights the voices of Irish newcomers, both new and newer Irish immigrants in Yonkers, and how they interact with the good Paddy Irish model. As with chapter 4, this chapter begins with the St. Patrick’s Day season but does so through the experience of these...

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6. Paddy and Paddiette Go to Washington: Race and Transnational Immigration Politics

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pp. 201-239

Contemporary immigration politics is among the most complex and volatile sites of identity and belonging in the United States. As with urban redevelopment policies, immigration politics are as contradictory as ever in this current neoliberal climate. This is perhaps best illustrated...

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Conclusion: To Belong

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pp. 241-245

Because the U.S. Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, some undocumented newcomers in Yonkers returned to Ireland. Caroline, who worked as an undocumented waitress for eleven years, is one of my informants who returned that winter. She...


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pp. 247-290


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pp. 291-300

About the Author

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pp. 301-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780814744130
E-ISBN-10: 0814744133
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814785027
Print-ISBN-10: 0814785026

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867741134
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Who's Your Paddy?

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- Yonkers -- History.
  • African Americans -- Relations with Irish Americans.
  • Irish Americans -- Race identity -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -- Social conditions.
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- New York -- History.
  • Irish Americans -- New York (State) -- Yonkers -- Social conditions.
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