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Introduction This book is an introduction to Traveller Studies and its corollaries, Romani Studies and Diaspora and Migration Studies. This book traces a number of common themes relating to the representation of Irish Travellers in Irish popular tradition and how these themes have impacted on Ireland’s collective imaginary. A particular focus is the development of the ‘settled’ (i.e. non-Traveller) community’s perception of Travellers as an outsider group in Irish society and the representation of Travellers as an Other who are perceived as both inside and outside Ireland’s collective ideation. The initial chapters of the book examine historical attempts to locate and define Irish Travellers and categorise them amongst a pantheon of Travelling groups in the Europe of the nineteenth century. Paradoxically, as with many other traditionally nomadic groups, the first studies of Irish Travellers were intimately linked with foundational myths relating to the development of the modern nation-state and the obsession with origins, authenticity and primal ancestry that characterised many intellectual movements of the late Victorian era. This volume explores the traditional approach of the quasi-scholarly Victorian and primitivist movement known as Gypsiology and the discourses of philological and ‘racial’ classification that attempted to locate Irish Travellers amongst a hierarchy of diverse travelling groups. The book proceeds with a brief analysis of how these debates with respect to the cultural definition of this small minority progressed into the modern era, where academic definitions have focused on the theorisation of Travellers in terms of such concepts as sedentarism, racism and ethnicity. A particular focus of this book is on the discussion of the concept of the Otherness or difference as analysed in the European and Irish contexts and as relating to the Traveller minority. The definition of Irishness which accompanied independence was a monologic one and of a history which was unitary or homogeneous and was useful in a 00 Insubordinate Irish i-xii 13/6/11 14:11 Page ix postcolonial nation where history itself was both an adaptive mechanism and a form of cultural legitimation. However, this teleological version of Ireland’s history had a negative impact for minorities whose histories were elided or left outside the collective. This book explores some of the consequences which accompanied the exclusion of the marginal Other, including Irish Travellers, from this homogeneous and constructed definition of Irishness, an exclusion which has only been exacerbated in the modern State-oriented era. This volume argues that the essentialist versions of Irish history and identity promulgated upon independence meant that reductionist views of the Irish people under colonialism were frequently transferred to the principal visible ‘Other within’ i.e. Irish Travellers subsequent to Irish independence. That an intimate link exists between the category definitions or representations of a particular group and societal attitudes and behaviours with respect to that group is widely acknowledged. So too is the fact that for well over a century the Irish Travellers have been framed within a regime of degradation and inferiority as encompassing attributions of primitivism and the anti-social (Acton, 1974, 1997; Clark, 2006; Mayall, 1987). The second half of this book analyses unequal power relations as pervading literary discourse and practice. The Irish tradition is explored as a site of struggle on the part of Irish Travellers. While the colonial enterprise brought dislocation in its wake and separated the colonised from their histories, languages and social relations, the discourses from the Irish oral tradition examined here demonstrate important sites of representational resistance and oppositional agency. Memory as interpretive struggle is analysed within a dissenting tradition where Travellers are seen to represent a counter-hegemonic undercurrent in Irish society, a site of resistance which remains symbolically central despite attempts at its suppression. This counterhegemonic tradition challenges those frames of representation which became reified and fixed within the Irish imaginary over time, coalescing in a ‘regime of truth’. This oppositional agency usurps the hegemonic process at the interstices between the Self and the Other and elucidates the ‘constructed’ nature that constitutes many representations of Travellers. This counter-tradition is also linked to a discussion concerning the philosophical possibilities for a movement beyond the politics of difference that has, as yet, been constitutive of Traveller alterity and the potential for a postmodernist theorisation of Self/Other relations. x Introduction 00 Insubordinate Irish i-xii 13/6/11 14:11 Page x ...


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