A Conundrum of Irish Diasporic Identity: Mutative Ethnicity

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This comparative study of the experience of the Irish in Britain and the United States draws upon a wealth of contemporary literature in order to stress the instability of the content of Irish ethnicity, its increasing looseness of association with Ireland and its tendency to ‘mutate’ in content over space and time, perhaps most strikingly according to the various political and social benefits which favoured its preservation from one locale to another. The essay argues that ‘mutative ethnicity’ and ‘adaptative ethnicity’ therefore become the terms which best explain the history of the Diaspora and cast light on Irish belief and behaviour. It shows that in order to preserve their Irishness, the Irish also had to change it. Thus the identity of the Irish in Victorian Britain is, like Irish identity elsewhere, a somewhat complicated and shifting concept, moving and developing in a jostling for cultural, social and political space in which the British and Irish changed one another

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  • Alan O'Day

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