London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Irish in Britain Seminar 2011

Irish in Britain Seminar Series 2011
10 - 31 May


The recent upturn in Irish migration indicates that Britain continues to be one of the primary destinations of Irish migrants into the 21st Century.  This year's seminar series covers a broad range of research in the field and aims to put current trends into their broader historical and political context.

10 May, Dr Jennifer Redmond, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Fight or Flight: The Irish in Britain in World War Two

This paper will explore the experiences of Irish people in Britain during
the Second World War by looking at two alternate responses to the war: the
desire to participate in a civilian or military capacity, and, conversely,
the desire to return to neutral Ireland. This presentation is based on a
study of over 23,000 application forms for travel permits, necessary forms
of photographic identity during the period. The research is drawn from a
wider project funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and
Social Sciences (IRCHSS). The records reveal a detailed portrait of Irish
men, women and children experiencing life as 'conditionally landed aliens'
in a belligerent nation. The forms detail demographic material about Irish
emigrants in Britain, including their children, unavailable from any other
source, including Census data. Additionally, applicants had to provide
qualitative comments on their reason for leaving the country and these
reveal much anxiety for children in the wake of repeated bombings of
civilian areas in Britain as well as other statements that reveal a desire
to "do their bit" in the war effort.

Dr. Jennifer Redmond is an IRCHSS Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the
Department of History, NUI Maynooth, Ireland. She completed her
undergraduate degree at University College Dublin and an M.Phil and a PhD
at the School of Histories and Humanities at Trinity College Dublin, the
latter on the discourses surrounding Irish female migration to Britain
during the first decades of Irish independence. Her current research
project, 'Regulating Citizenship', focuses on the experiences of Irish
migrants in Britain during the Second World War utilising travel permit
applications from Irish people across the UK who wished to return home.
The project will result in a monograph, "War, Citizens and Migrants", and
a catalogue of the records to be held at the National Archives of Ireland.

17 May, Prof Mary Hickman, London Metropolitan University
Diaspora space, national (re)formations and Irish immigration to Britain and the USA

In this paper I examine the relationship between diaspora space and national (re)formations. By national formation I am referring to the creation and articulation of shifting and contingent borders, the constitution of specific social relations, and the generation of processes of inclusion, exclusion and subordinated inclusion that characterize nation states. I suggest the potential of the lens of diaspora space for illuminating national (re)formations by refocusing the study of Irish migration, away from ethnic historiography, and towards the comparative study of Irish encounters in the diasporic spaces of nineteenth century USA and mid-twentieth century Britain. One reason to examine the relationship between national (re)formations and diaspora space is that reflecting on past instances of national formation or reconfiguration contributes to understanding contemporary
societies because the discourses, practices, hierarchies and identities of present day societies are layered on those of previous immigrations, prior encounters and the new social relations they inaugurated. A further reason to revisit national formations and reconfigurations through the lens of diaspora space is that national formation is not solely about the making of difference compared with other nations. The processes of national becoming that can be traced in specific contexts also involve the making of difference within the national. I will argue here that the lens of diaspora space produces a fuller reading of the generation and intersection of social divisions across time and space and therefore of national formations and reconfigurations.

Mary Hickman is Professor of Irish Studies and Sociology and Director of the Institute for the Study of European Transformations at London Metropolitan University.  She established the Irish Studies Centre at the former University of North London and was a member of the Irish Governments Task Force on Policy regarding Emigrants (2001-2002).  She has been visiting Professor at: New York University, Columbia University, the New School for Social Research in New York, and Victoria University, Melbourne.  Her research interests centre on migrations and diasporas, the Irish in Britain, second and third generations, Britishness and representations of minority ethnic communities and she has published widely on these subjects. She was director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Flagship Project for their Immigration and Inclusion Programme, ‘Rhythms and Realities of Everyday Life: improving our understanding of the relationship between recent immigration and social cohesion, 2005-2008.

24 May, Dr Marc Scully, Open University
'It's not as if I'm a "fake" Irish person': 'Authenticity' and the Irish in England

As with many minority populations, the notion of a cohesive Irish community in England is called into question by continually shifting debates around who can legitimately claim membership of this community, and thus call themselves Irish. This, in turn, raises questions about how Irishness should be publicly represented and performed, within multicultural England. Working from a social psychological perspective, and drawing on my recent PhD research on the topic, this paper explores the ways in which Irish people in England draw on discourses of authenticity in constructing and articulating Irish identities. I will examine in detail 4 particular subject areas relating to Irishness in England, in which authenticity plays a major role: Narratives of collective Irish experience in post-war England, public displays of Irishness, local identities, and generational differences. From these, I argue that three distinct but overlapping discourses of Irish authenticity emerge: authenticity through collective experience and memory; authenticity through transnational knowledge, and authenticity through diasporic claim. I will illustrate how these discourses operate in people’s identity work through extracts from my interview data. Finally, I will suggest some possible patterns that may be emerging in the recent upsurge in Irish migration to England.

Dr. Marc Scully is a social psychologist based at the Open University. He completed his PhD thesis entitled “Discourses of authenticity and national identity among the Irish diaspora in England” in 2010, and has contributed to a number of academic conferences and publications on the topic of the Irish in England in recent years. His major academic interests lie in researching discourses of migration, diaspora, transnationalism and multiculturalism, and in particular how individuals negotiate their own identities within these discourses. He is also interested in the interaction between local and national identities, particularly in relation to Irish county identity.

31 May, Whitney Standlee, University of Liverpool
'Making Rebels': Home Rule Politics and the Novels of Diasporic Irish Women in Britain

Just as wider trends of emigration saw women leaving Ireland in greater numbers than men in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century, the period between 1890 and 1916 marked a significant point of entry for Irish women onto the British publishing scene. The proliferation of these authors did not escape the notice of contemporary commentators who recognized that there were 'numerous young Irishwomen [making] a name for themselves in the literary world'.  At the same time, the Home Rule movement for Ireland was provoking the most vehemently contested political debates of the era.  Lacking the franchise, Irish women were excluded from entering into these debates in any official or lawful manner.  Through their texts, however, writers such as Emily Lawless, George Egerton, Katharine Tynan, L. T. Meade and M. E. Francis were granted a public platform by which they might exercise their political influence.  This seminar will consider a representative sample of texts written by these women - among them some of the most popular and controversial works of their day - to assess the degree to which diasporic Irish women in Britain explored the debates surrounding the Irish Home Rule movement in their literary work.

Originally from Pennsylvania in the United States, Whitney Standlee relocated to England in January of 1997. She is currently in the final stages of a doctoral thesis at the University of Liverpool's Institute of Irish Studies.  Her publications include an article on James Joyce and George Egerton in Irish Studies Review (2010), and two chapters on the work of Katharine Tynan, one in The Politics of Irish Writing (2010) which explores the political themes in her novels; the other on depictions of London in her poetry, novels and memoirs in The Other Capital:  Irish Writing London, forthcoming in 2012.

The Irish Studies Centre has provided a forum for teaching, learning and research since 1986.  The Irish in Brtitain Seminar Series offers an informal but informative forum for students, researchers and scholars to debate and disseminate the laterst research on Ireland, migration and the diaspora

For further information contact Tony



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